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Deer Lake resident Angus Janes still concerned about future of property on unstable riverbank

This riverbank in Deer Lake has under siege by the rising waters of the Humber River last January.
This riverbank in Deer Lake has under siege by the rising waters of the Humber River last January. - FILE

Angus Janes was hoping more would have been done by now.

And, his mayor is urging patience.

Janes lives on Pine Tree Drive in Deer Lake and owns one of the homes the town advised should be evacuated last January when the flooded Humber River began eating away at the sandy banks on which the street sits.

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Neither Janes, nor any of the other affected homeowners, ever left their property. That doesn’t mean they weren’t concerned and weren’t keeping a close eye on the worsening situation.

The Town of Deer Lake has spent the last year trying to figure out the best way try and mitigate the erosion, which is still occurring. At first it was thought that sheets of metal pilings could be driven into the riverbank to absorb and redirect the forceful current.

That idea has proven to be too costly, likely in the millions. Instead, the town’s plan now is to place stone along the banks to stabilize it.

There was already stone in a section of the riverbank, but some of it got washed away. The plan is to put more back.

“They haven’t done anything to fix it yet,” said Janes. “They had something bigger in mind with a steel wall, but that didn’t happen because it was too expensive. They should have known that. They should have just went with the big boulders long ago. Anything at all would have been a help.”

Janes is concerned about his property. He has tried to get home insurance, which he had been without, but has been told he can’t get it in light of the precarious riverbank.

Amanda Dean, vice-president Atlantic for the Insurance Bureau of Canada, told The Western Star there is no insurance policy available anywhere to protect against erosion, but she did say there should be no reason Janes shouldn’t still be able to get insurance against fire, theft and so on.

Dean did say an insurer will obviously want to know the risks involved in any property. She said the insurer will also want to know of any mitigation measures against a threat such as flooding taken by the homeowner or by any public body such as a municipality.

Janes said he intends to withhold his municipal taxes if something is not done to protect his property.

Mayor Dean Ball said there is nothing to be gained by withholding taxes. He said being in arrears will still just wind up being referred to a collection agency at some point.

He wants the folks who live on Pine Tree Drive, as well as Riverbank Road — which was also affected by erosion, to work with the town towards addressing this situation.

The eroded area along Riverbank Road has been remediated back to the condition it was prior to last January’s flooding.

Engineers and the town are still working out the final details of the contract for the work required for Pine Tree Drive. Ball said it is close to going to tender and the only decisions left are to determine if the material to be used to shore up the riverbank will be all armour stone or a combination of that and other large rock, as well as the elevation and grade of the designed stone wall.

When asked if the rock will also be placed on the riverbanks next to the homes that are in jeopardy, Ball said that might take more work to figure out as the contract will only replace rocks in the area where they were before.

The part of the federal Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements program the town is availing of does not cover private property. Ball said the buffer zone between private and provincial property along Pine Tree Drive has essentially crumbled into the river, so the issue has been complicated by that factor.

“We’re still working on that issue, but no decision has been made,” he said. “This issue is at the forefront for us and it will be given the time and necessary conversation until this decision is made.”

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