The federal government on Tuesday pledged $150 million for four flooding and storm mitigation projects in Toronto and York Region, after a summer in which residents across the GTA endured water-filled basements and power outages following intense rainstorms.
More flooding, more questions for Toronto politicians
The Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Francois-Philippe Champagne made the announcement Tuesday alongside Toronto MP Marco Mendicino, who is also his parliamentary secretary, as well as the mayors of Toronto and Markham.
The initiatives include a new relief storm sewer under Memorial Park in mid-town Toronto that will cover an area of about 75 hectares. This will improve protection against basement flooding for some 2,400 residents.
More than $37 million in federal funding is allocated for that project.
Lou Di Geronimo, general manager of Toronto Water, said detailed design work for the project is set to get underway, and the city hopes to start construction within about two years. The entire project should be finished in five years, Toronto Mayor John Tory told reporters.
Tory said the new funding will help advance the city’s midtown relief storm sewer project, which is part of the city-wide basement flooding protection program.
“Toronto is experiencing more severe storms, with more rain falling over a short amount of time,” Tory said in a statement. “This increases pressure on the sewer system and drainage routes, which leads to basement flooding.”
In York-Durham, crews will “twin” the existing 35-year-old main sewage line to “minimize potential spills, particularly during storms,” according to a news release. The move will impact more than 133,000 residents in East Gwillimbury, Newmarket and Aurora.
That project will cost about $48 million.
In Markham, flood control measures will help protect “vulnerable areas” from flooding, including the Don Mills Employment Lands and West Thornhill. Some 18,000 residents will be impacted by this work.
More than $48 million will go to this project.
Stormwater flood mitigation projects in Vaughan “will improve water quality and reduce the impact of flooding” for more than 35,000 residents, to the tune of more than $16 million, the release said.
‘Keeping Canadian families safe’
The funding will come out of the federal Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund, a $2-billion, 10-year program designed to build the infrastructure needed for communities to withstand natural disasters.
Tuesday’s pledge marks the first project announced from the fund, Champagne said.
“Today’s announcement is all about keeping Canadian families safe and it’s all about protecting local businesses and it’s all about supporting a strong economy,” he told reporters.
“We all know that disaster mitigation is one of the greatest challenges we are facing.”
Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti noted in the news release that the city’s older neighbourhoods were designed with “limited infrastructure capacity to handle extreme rainfall.”
The flood protection projects will “improve flood resiliency and protect our neighbourhoods against the effects of climate change or extreme rainfall,” he said.
Homeowners across the GTA have sought help in recent years as torrential rains have led to serious flooding in homes across the region.
Last summer, a handful of intense rainstorms left basements and roadways flooded and caused widespread power outages.
A storm that hit the area on Aug. 7 alone caused more than $80 million in insured damage, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada. And homeowners in North York sought answers after their basements filled with water despite work by city crews to mitigate flood risk.