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White brothers want brook banks built up to alleviate future flooding

Louis and Don White, two brothers who had their family farm flooded in January, stand next to a section of land where part of Warm Brook is running through it. The section was once a productive hayfield.
Louis and Don White, two brothers who had their family farm flooded in January, stand next to a section of land where part of Warm Brook is running through it. The section was once a productive hayfield. - Frank Gale

Don White, part owner of a family farm in Noel’s Pond, is frustrated with the lack of response from government representatives relating to requests for assistance from winter flooding.

He’s especially disappointed with John Finn, MHA for Stephenville-Port au Port District, who he says hasn’t been helping.

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Finn said he has met with White at his office and has had ongoing conversations with him about flooding in the past year or so.

The farm was ravaged with silt and rocks when Warm Creek wiped out the bank on the White Farm side of the stream and went across the farm and over the Hansen Highway during the Jan. 12-14 flooding.

Finn said that when he met with White this past winter he indicated a section of paving is being done from Brook Street in Stephenville through Noel’s Pond to Gull Pond.

“The scope of this work will include flood mitigation measures, such as dredging and installing culverts and other measures deemed necessary by Transportation and Works staff and the contractor,” he said.

Finn said this flood mitigation work is in addition to work already completed by the Town of Stephenville in consultation with him and the Department of Transportation and Works.

“This project on Route 460 has been awarded to Marine Contractors as of May 1 and as weather permits and asphalt plants begin operation, it will start,” he said.

Finn said he understands the Whites’ frustration and he’s pleased to see this project finally begin, given the neglect for more than a decade.

White said after writing Premier Dwight Ball and ministers Steve Crocker, Gerry Byrne and Eddie Joyce, the only provincial government representative who got back to him was Byrne, minister of Fisheries and Land Resources.

He said a letter from Byrne basically said he and his brother Louis White, who also works the farm, didn’t fit the criteria for assistance.

In correspondence from the government, it said “hobby farmers” are not eligible for help, something White takes offence to, saying they’re subsistence farmers who provide food for their families and make some money.

“(Gerry) Byrne states there’s no financial assistance available for us, but you see stories in the media, there’s money available for new and existing farmers to develop or restore farmland, but they can’t spend money to protect our farmland,” he said.

The farm produces hay and vegetables, which they will try to continue producing despite losing more than three acres of productive land. The flood wiped out their raspberry and strawberry gardens, along with their apple and cherry trees.

White said they’re doing what they can to restore the farmland, but unless something is done with the banks and the bridge on the Hansen Highway, the flooding will continue.

“I’m not asking for the world here. Clearing out silt under the bridge and building up the banks won’t only benefit our farm, but everyone who uses Route 460,” he said.

White said he got a reply from Gudie Hutchings, MP for Long Range Mountains, who said financial assistance is provided by the federal government but administered by the provincial government.

Reasons for flooding in Noel’s Pond valley:

Clear cutting of forest upstream from the bridge on Hansen Highway.

Bridge on Hansen Highway – a 60-plus year old structure that wasn’t built to allow the amount of water that rushes down.

Lacking of maintenance of bridge structure, with Department of Transportation and Works not removing debris from under the bridge.

Old rail bed put in the valley parallel to Hansen Highway, which acts as a dam across the valley.

Spur rail bed installed in the early 1970s to service the paper mill, causing water to back up into fields to Route 460 (Hansen Highway).

New culverts on Route 490 not adequate, causing water to back up into fields.

Water level in Noel’s Pond 7 to 12 feet higher than the norm because a controlled structure at the outlet of the pond does not work.

Source: Don White

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