A sea of troubles in Rigaud
PHOTO BY NICK ZACHARIAS
Though resident William Bradley has been given $22,000 from the provincial government to conduct repairs on his home, the Town of Rigaud has erected signs near Pointe-Séguin indicating it’s forbidden to carry out construction or repairs in the flood zone area.
Following the second major flood event in as many years that devastated his small community at the tip of Chemin de la Pointe Séguin, long-time Rigaud resident William Bradley and many of his neighbours are feeling trapped. The province has a program in place to provide up to $200,000 in financial assistance to those living in flood zones who choose to relocate, but in many cases that may not be enough to cover an existing mortgage, let alone a comparable property on higher ground.
The area in question is a narrow point of land extending into the Ottawa River, serviced by a single road that curls northeast off Route 342. The point features a treed landscape with a public boat launch and roughly 30 houses. Surrounded on three sides by water, it is especially at risk for flooding and has been hit hard by recent events – water levels this spring left visible white marks on trees eight feet above ground level, poured into basements, and left the access road completely submerged.
“I’ve lived here for 30 years,” said Bradley, who is 72 years old, “and now they’re telling me I don’t have a right to be here.” The community began as little more than a series of fishing shacks but over time, under previous administrations, more and more substantial development was allowed to take place. About 15 years ago, Bradley says the city of Rigaud co-financed the raising of the road, splitting the $34,000 cost 50/50 with local residents to try to assure the continuation of the community following a flood in 1998. The road was still not high enough to stay above water in the last flood.
“Some of us nicknamed it ‘Île Séguin’ in those days” says Bradley, with the dark humour that often comes in the face of disaster. Bradley reports that, “At one point they had plans to put 30 new houses on the 2.5 acre-lot behind me, so I bought the land myself. Now when the mayor comes to visit me he asks, ‘Why haven’t you just moved?’”
PHOTO BY NICK ZACHARIAS
The yard surrounding William Bradley’s Rigaud home still bears signs of the recovery and clean-up efforts following the 2017 and 2019 floods and he and his neighbours are feeling stuck in government red tape at the municipal and provincial levels.
Not allowed to conduct repairs
“I understand that moving might be for the best, but I can’t find anywhere with a similar house and a barn to house our artisan pottery workshop for anything close to the money they are offering,” said Bradley, “and now, on top of that, they are telling me that I can’t do any repairs to protect my foundations if we flood again.”
Signs have appeared at the entrance to the community and on surrounding roads prohibiting construction, renovation, or repairs to buildings without the authorization of the municipal Service de l’urbanisme.
“My foundation is built with blocks, and I’m not allowed to do any work to rebuild my French drain system and direct water away from the house and protect it in case of power outage – at one time we had to have nine pumps running to stay on top of the three feet of water in our basement. It’s terrible, we lost all our speed limit signs and children playing signs in the last flood, and the city hasn’t replaced them, but they were able to put up that sign to tell me I can’t do any work to protect my own house.”
Aid from the province
Some houses have already been abandoned in the area, while other homeowners are hoping their efforts at raising foundations after the 2017 flood will be enough to hold them. Bradley has received $22,000 to conduct repairs from the province of Quebec (an amount arrived at after multiple assessor visits) but is now sitting on it in the bank for fear that any work he attempts to do with it will land him in trouble with the city and possibly see him going to court. “It just feels like they’re trying to pressure me out,” he said.
The mayor’s position