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Rideau River Flood Control Operations

From the City of Ottawa

(Photo from the Ottawa Citizen)

Every year, the City of Ottawa’s Roads and Parking Services team works in partnership with the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority to prepare for its annual Rideau River Flood Control (RRFC) operations and blasting. This unique process that has been in place since the late 1890s, puts our team on the ice – first to clear the snow, then to cut the ice and finally to blast it. These operations are critical to mitigating the risk of flooding in the communities along the Rideau River.


Don’t look now, but spring is on the horizon and operations are officially underway! On February 9, a portion of the Rideau River Flood Control team was mobilized and began preparing equipment and drilling test holes at several locations throughout the river corridor. This winter season has seen less snow, warmer temperatures during the day and frigid temperatures at night, and as a result, our work looks different than in previous years. Despite this, the team has been monitoring the ice thickness and preparing for flood control operations.


The preliminary steps have concluded and today, the team is working proactively by cutting keys in select areas where the ice is thicker. To ensure everyone’s safety, we are reminding residents to stay off the ice for the remainder of the winter season.


A unique Rideau River flood control season is upon us


In a normal flood control season, the cutting of the keys would have already been completed and the team would now be getting ready for scheduled ice-blasting. However, we’ve adjusted operations and shifted to a monitoring response model where the team will be on standby prepared to respond to the conditions accordingly. This means they will be keeping a close eye on the rapidly changing ice conditions and the rate at which the river water is flowing, especially near bridges or in areas where the river narrows.


Controlled ice blasting


Although this year’s weather is creating uncharted river conditions, the risk of flooding remains, and blasting may occur. Should an area become at risk, unscheduled blasting operations will be performed to break the ice and allow it to continue its course down the river corridor. If blasting is not required, the team will deploy the amphibious excavator whose role is to break away any ice that remains on the Rideau River.


At this time, it’s unsure what the coming weeks will look like and what steps we will need to take next, but it will be different from previous years. For everyone in nearby communities, rest assured, the team is ready to do what is necessary to get the water flowing to mitigate the risk of flooding.   



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