Who is Responsible for the Flood in Cottage Country?


With the water from the flood in Muskoka finally gone, devastation remains. It is safe to say that damage from the flood caused millions of dollars of damage. Personal cottages and small businesses were destroyed. While it is clear that the melted snow and rain that caused the flood was a natural occurrence, some residents are saying the the flood was avoidable. With all the personal damage to cottages, it is no surprise that people are looking to point a finger and anyone who can shoulder the blame.

Lawyer Michael Anne McDonald is filing a class action lawsuit against the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Provincial Crown on behalf of the flood affected residents on Lake Muskoka, the Indian River below the damn in Port Carling and on the north and south branch of the Muskoka River. The lawsuit is being filed over private property flood damage.

McDonald cites negligence in the Ministry’s handling of water regulation during the flood in April. MacDonald believes that the dam system was not properly operated to allow for a sufficient drawdown. She will not reveal how many people are currently involved with the lawsuit but expects more victims to join.

The Ministry of Natural Resources Senior Media Relations Officer Yolanta Kowalski will not comment on the allegations saying that it is inappropriate to comment now that a lawsuit is pending.

Even without the money from the pending lawsuit, there is plenty of support being directed to the flood affected areas of Mukoka. The province of Ontario announced that it will provide financial support to the flood-damaged communities. The province has committed up to $18 million to the affected municipalities and private property owners. Support will be provided through the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program. The funding will be to provide people with money to repair their homes and small businesses as well as municipal infrastructure like bridges and roads.

The communities that will receive funding are:

-Hastings Highlands
-Kawartha Lakes
-Lake of Bays
-Minden Hills
-South Algonquin

The funds that will be directed to Muskoka and the flood affected areas under the ODRAP clearly state that the assistance for private property is restricted to “essential property” and will not cover damage to “secondary residences or recreational property”. Most of the damage that occurred to private property involved docks and boathouses on cottage properties, there is not likely to be many waterfront property owners who will be eligible for the funding.

Perhaps if the government lifted some of the restrictions on assistance for secondary residences and recreational property, they would not be facing a class action lawsuit accusing the MNR of poor handling of the floodwater. Should cottage owners be helped out financially or should they just thank their lucky stars that the real estate damage from the disaster in cottage country was not to their primary home?

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