Clynt King wants to help his community adapt to a changing climate and mitigate its impacts. This past year, he began working with the Collingwood-based Greenland Group of Companies to build a foundation and a plan of action.
As an environmental technician in the Six Nations of Grand River Territory, Clynt King has observed flooding issues in his community for a number of years. “Flooding on roads has impacted homes and commercial buildings, as well as private property and the environment,” he says. “The traditional solution has been to dig ditches wider and deeper, but we also heard about water shortages in the creeks during the summer.”
Six Nations consists of approximately 18,000 hectares of land, but, like most First Nations in Canada, has never had floodplain maps. In an effort to better understand water management, King started compiling research about two years ago. He presented his research results to the Drainage Committee of Six Nations Council. Along with some advice from Glen Murray (Minister of the Environment and Climate Change) and Gord Miller (then Environmental Commissioner of Ontario), they settled on an approach to building a foundation for future flood mitigation work and took those ideas to council.
“Gord suggested four pillars for our foundation: drought conditions, climate change impacts, flooding impacts, and wetland preservation,” King says. “Research led me to tools developed by the Greenland Group of Companies, that include the Integrated Science and Watershed Management System (ISWMS™) and the Canadian Watershed Evaluation Tool (CANWET™), and council was supportive. We finalized and approved the proposal.” The team went forward with Phase 1 of a Master Drainage and Flood Remediation Study for McKenzie Creek.
The Greenland Group of Companies from Collingwood, Ontario specializes in understanding watersheds and helping clients determine priorities for remediation, upgrades, and new capital projects that will protect them from the impacts of climate change. Stragis Environmental Services Ltd. (Stragis) is a member of the Greenland Group and leads its growing project partnerships with First Nations, including the work of this project. “We want our clients to know where they are most vulnerable and help them identify the solutions and their costs,” says Andrew Palmer of Stragis. “We can also help them understand the potential costs associated with taking no action.”
Collecting the data
To properly assess the watershed’s vulnerabilities, Six Nations and Stragis required a great deal of data. While teaching a training session on air monitoring at Grand River Employment and Training (the session was a partnership with Cambrian College), King got to know a few of the students and, through a co-op placement program, helped two of them to get some valuable field training as part of the project. After their training ended, they were hired for six months. These new graduates gathered bridge and culvert survey data to populate the hydraulic model for determining flood levels in McKenzie Creek.
At the same time, the community purchased a drone. “The students learned how to use it, and then they trained me!” King says. “After a flood, we used the drone to take pictures or video and test how well the floodplain maps matched an actual event. It was very accurate.”
The project data will help the community decide how to prioritize remediation projects, but King and his team can also use the resulting maps and ISWMS™/CANWET™ decision support tools to decide where and how to build new developments. Avoiding vulnerable areas will strengthen the community’s resilience and protect it from many of the impacts of a changing climate.
Phase 1 has helped identify solutions to reduce (or eliminate) current flooding problems and impacts within Six Nations land, but the project doesn’t end here. Six Nations and Stragis are working together on the next steps, which include applying to the Ontario Small Communities Fund for funding to start construction on some of the priority projects that will improve drainage and significantly decrease flooding impacts in the community. While there is still much work to do, King says they are ready to act.
A joint proposal to proceed with Phase 2, the Boston Creek Master Drainage and Flood Remediation Study, is being developed by Six Nations with the adjacent First Nation, the Mississaugas of the New Credit.