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Engineers drawing up plan to try and mitigate Deer Lake’s riverbank erosion issues

This aerial image taken Jan. 20 shows just how close the cracks in the sandy banks of the Humber River are to the road on Pine Tree Drive in Deer Lake. The stairs and deck to the right of the crack will likely be lost to the river. - Photo courtesy Town of Deer Lake
This aerial image taken Jan. 20 shows just how close the cracks in the sandy banks of the Humber River are to the road on Pine Tree Drive in Deer Lake. The stairs and deck to the right of the crack will likely be lost to the river. - Photo courtesy Town of Deer Lake - Submitted

The Humber River has been historically eating away at the banks along Pine Tree Drive for as long as it has been meandering its way through that part of Deer Lake.

The historical erosion is nothing new, really, but the fact a recent rainstorm three weeks ago has caused significant wearing of the banks remains a major cause for concern for the town and the area’s residents.

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On Thursday, town officials met with the engineers it has contracted to assess the most recent erosion event, which has put four private homes on the river’s edge in jeopardy. Some of those residents have already lost land and some personal property to the river since the Jan. 13 storm.

Mayor Dean Ball said the engineers confirmed the foundering of the sandy riverbank is not going to stop. They will now more closely analyze the situation and produce a report that is expected to suggest ways to possibly slow down the worsening situation.

“It’s going to continue and we all knew that, really,” said Ball. “All we can do now is continue to monitor it and see what the engineer’s report has to say.”

The mayor said the possible measures to be taken could include dropping armour stone or sheet pilings in the area along Pine Tree Drive where the bending river flows directly into the banks.

Ball said the situation is truly unfortunate because both private property and municipal infrastructure is at stake. Over time, he said, the river will likely eventually claim the road and inevitably put more properties in the same vicinity at risk.

The latest problems all began when mild temperatures, mixed with heavy rains and significant snowmelt, led to a flooded river that got backed up by an ice jam at the river’s mouth further downriver from Pine Tree Drive.

The river often floods in the spring, but this situation during winter is different from any in recent memory.

More mild weather and rain is coming today with temperatures of 5 C and 20 millimetres of rain in the forecast for the Deer Lake area. Around 15 centimetres of snow is expected through the rest of the weekend as temperatures drop back down around -6 or -7 C.

More rain is anticipated Monday when temperatures rise to around 3 C and another 15 millimetres fall before the mercury goes back to below freezing by Tuesday.

Ball said there is not much in the way of preventative measures that can be taken as these mild spells approach.

“We’ll be monitoring it, as will the residents,” he said. “There’s not much else we can do right now.”

Residents of the homes considered to be in jeopardy have been urged to voluntarily evacuate, but no one has left their homes just yet.

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