Toronto’s still on track to get its new flood-preventing island

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It’s difficult to eliminate biases, but Toronto is one of the best places to live. Instead of going off track and touting Toronto’s greatness, let’s focus on how in a historical moment, we’re going to get more city while protecting parts of the city we already love.

Port Lands Flood Protection Project is a six-year, $1.25 billion initiative that will be approximately the size of Toronto’s current downtown core. Toronto’s southeastern downtown area is subjected to flooding given a “Regulatory Storm.” A Regulatory storm is defined as a 1-in-100-year storm. If a severe storm would occur, 715 acres of Toronto’s southeast neighbourhoods could be flooded from the Don River watershed.

The last devastating flood that Toronto experienced was Hurricane Hazel in 1954. According to Jim Gifford’s Hurricane Hazel: Canada’s Storm of the Century, in Canada, the storm killed 81 people and left 4,000 families homeless.

Even though Hazel hit the Humber River, the Waterfront Toronto team (the company leading the Port Lands project) is not waiting for a storm to overflow the Don. The plan is designed to remove flood-risk from existing areas but also ensure that the new areas are safe and ready for volatile conditions.

The Port Lands’ design provides complete resiliency during a storm even larger than Hurricane Hazel (which raised river and creek water levels by 20 – 26 feet). On average, Lake Ontario fluctuates between one metre above or below average lake levels. The design accommodates this oscillation by building the wetlands on different elevations, allowing wildlife to always find food and shelter.

The Port Lands Flood Protection Project began construction in 2018 and is set to be completed in 2024. The project is being completed to combat a 1-in-100-year flood right in the middle of a 1-in-100-year virus. Kind of sheds some light on the importance of planning based on historic patterns.

According to Andrew Tumilty, Media Relations and Issues Advisor for Waterfront Toronto, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic there were some adjustments made to accommodate social distancing, but it hasn’t impacted the overall timeline of the project.

The Port Lands project is so much more than flood protection. It’s one of the biggest infrastructure projects in Toronto’s history that is going to provide Toronto with additional green spaces, aquatic habitat, and supporting transportation initiatives (roads, bridges, public transport accommodations etc.).

From “The Weather Network angle,” we’re excited, curious, and able to relevantly cover the flood-protection, green-space, and aquatic-health areas of the project, but it’s also important to note the social-economic initiatives.

In 2024, after the flood protection is complete, the Villiers Island Precinct Plan can starts development. Villiers Island is responsible for building affordable and family-friendly housing. A minimum of 20% of housing built on public land will be dedicated to long-term affordable rental housing.

Another important note, the Port Lands project is being completed without disturbing the current naturalized establishments in the area, such as Cherry Beach and Tommy Thompson Park. You can check out which areas are being transformed on the Port Lands’ website.

This project is a beast. As construction continues, we’re excited to learn more about the initiative’s developments. A super fun and animated way to keep tabs on the project is by following Rocky, ironically not a nod to Rocky Raccoon, but a rock ripping excavator with a loud personality.