Mind Your Own Business

Garden Clippings for December 23, 2017

A few days ago I was chatting it up with a young couple on the parking lot at DeGroot’s and one of them glanced over the creek next door and asked “Hey, what’s the name of that river?  I’ve never seen it before.”

“Oh, that creek has been there a hundred years, may-be more”, I responded.  “And to be honest, I don’t really know its name.”

That brief conversation led me to look at a Google map of Sarnia and beyond and I quickly learned that the creek starts south of Churchill Line, then meanders to Confederation south of the former City dump, then runs past Bluewater Country where it hooks up with another creek.  It continues under London Line towards the Highway 402, then goes under the Highway past the Welcome to Sarnia sign.  From there it hooks up to the Cull Drain where it dumps into Lake Huron just west of Mike Weir Park.

Another creek starts south of the Superstore, runs behind all the London Road plazas, and then north adjacent to Smith’s Funeral Home.  From there it runs through Wawanosh Wetlands, North of the Airport and finally hooks up to the same Cull Drain.

Lambton County is full of ditches, drains, culverts and creeks, most which we don’t notice until we deliberately look for them.

We would be in a sorry mess if we had no network of drains and creeks.  Parking lots would be flooded, sump pumps would be non-functioning, roads would be a mess and farmers’ tiles would be useless.  Most basements would be flooded.

Today, the creek adjacent to DeGroot’s has only a little water in it.  I could probably hop over it without getting my shoes wet.  But in spring after a serious rain, the water level is much higher and moves so quickly that a floating branch is only visible for a few seconds.

A community’s infrastructure is now largely engineered to withstand a 100-year storm.  In other words the banks of a creek ought not overflow and might even withstand a storm that may only occur once every 100 years.

But engineers and environmentalists are beginning to worry.  The earth wasn’t really created with parking lots, rooftops and roads in mind.  Smaller communities such as ours in Southwestern Ontario have little to worry about but the alarms are ringing loud in bigger cities such as Toronto and Chicago.

City planners are beginning to realise that the best way to control water is to allow it to percolate through the soil as it does in bush lots and parkland areas.  But that’s easier said than done as we build massive parking lots, crowded roadways and mega shopping centres.

Next week’s Garden Clippings will deal with potential solutions to the challenges of dealing with excess water.