Participatory Spring Flood Mapping with Kashechewan First Nation, Northern Ontario

The Kashechewan First Nation, southwestern James Bay, northern Ontario, is prone to spring flooding and has been evacuated 14 times to 22 host communities across Ontario since 2004. The federal government has been unable to provide any appropriate and long-term prevention/mitigation measures for protection from high river spring flows. Through collaborative research with the community as a proactive partner, and conducting participatory flood mapping workshops, it was found that flooding has occurred seasonally in the region and has not increased significantly over time. However, flood risk has increased in part due to the low-lying and muskeg topography of the lowlands, substandard community infrastructure, the deteriorating dike, and the ice bridge of the ice road. The timing and extent of flooding have changed in recent years with warming temperatures (late winter freeze-up, earlier and warmer spring, snowmelt, and rapid runoff) and impacts are exacerbated by landscape and resource development, particularly the ice bridge. The elevated and frequent flooding risk and the lack of appropriate traditional Indigenous or planned adaptation (nature-based solutions) and/or technological (e.g., ice booms, piers and gates) mitigation measures have contributed significant damage to the community. The secondary/cascading impacts include significant changes in local hunting and harvesting practices, restrictions to sociocultural activities, and barriers to the intergenerational transmission of traditional knowledge. The results of this study offer information for ongoing flood monitoring and disaster risk reduction activities for other communities facing similar challenges in the region.

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