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Deer Lake awaiting opportunity to address riverbank erosion

Ruby Moss, who lives in the Pine Tree Drive area of Deer Lake, surveys the devastation of the eroding banks of the flooded Humber River along the street earlier this week. More land has given way since this photo was taken.
Ruby Moss, who lives in the Pine Tree Drive area of Deer Lake, surveys the devastation of the eroding banks of the flooded Humber River along the street earlier this week. More land has given way since this photo was taken. - Submitted

It’s an ugly reality and a hard thing to accept, but watching and waiting for something to happen is about all Deer Lake can do about its eroding riverbank situation.

The banks of the Upper Humber River have always been susceptible to some erosion, but the natural processes at work got an unwelcome boost after a significant rain storm struck the region Jan. 13.

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Large chunks of the banks along Pine Tree Drive fell into the river not long after water levels rose from the heavy rains and major snow melt that inundated the river. An ice jam at the mouth of the river never helped as it caused water to back up into the river.

Cracks along the river’s edge indicate more sections of the sandy banks are ready to collapse.

On the other side of the Humber, Riverbank Road dropped several inches after the banks beneath it were undermined by the flow.

Ever since, the town has been monitoring the situations in both areas with the belief things will likely worsen before they can be addressed in the spring.

The Town of Deer Lake now has an engineering report on the conditions and how the issues might be mitigated.

All along, Mayor Dean Ball has reiterated the fear the spring thaw could trigger further erosion events. With a string of mild days in the forecast for the coming week, Ball is hoping things will hold until action can be taken.

“We have done everything we could do so far, like moving the utility poles across the street,” said Ball. “Right now, there is nothing to react to. We are just waiting for something to happen now and there’s not much else we can do.”

The residents of four homes on Pine Tree Drive that are nearest the foundering banks were advised days after the big storm in January to be ready to evacuate, but none have left their homes.

The town is worried too much erosion could jeopardize the water and sewer infrastructure under the road.

Measures taken on Riverbank Road included closing the road to one-way traffic only and limited to local residents only.

This spring, the town expects to try and slow the erosion. The plan, though not yet confirmed, will likely involve installing steel piles along the riverbank to soften the force of the river as it flows around the bend near Pine Tree Drive.

Before that happens, test drilling will have to be done on the sandy banks along the edge to determine just how deep those pilings would have to be driven.

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