After the big thaw of Jan. 13, 2018, Mark Hoyles thought the washed-out woods road into Bottomless Pond was the biggest concern he would have for accessing his cabin there.
He wouldn't be more wrong.
The level of the pond rose a little bit after the major rainstorm and snowmelt from mild temperatures, but he still didn’t think much of that at first.
When the pond kept rising in the spring, it became more of a worry. By May, the newly established shorelines had reached his cabin and were proceeding far beyond it.
His cabin started to slip deeper and deeper below the surface of the pond. Despite the water temporarily receding for a bit during the hot summer months, it began rising again in the rainy fall.
Now, with the water level having risen somewhere between 20 and 25 feet from what it was last year, only the roof of his cabin is visible above the frozen-over pond.
“It’s been pretty devastating,” Hoyles said. “I never thought in my life this would ever happen.”
There are actually five cabins submerged and encased in Bottomless Pond ice this winter, Including one owned by Hoyles’ brother Melvin.
Hoyles had been hoping to salvage as much of his cabin as he could down to the water line.
“All I can save now is the roof trusses,” he said. “Everything else in the cabin is not of much use any more.”
Bottomless Pond is believed to have a natural drainage system somewhere on the bottom of the pond. Hoyles believes that drainage has been blocked by sediment and debris as a result of last January’s flooding event.
If he’s right, Hoyles said there should be concerns about what will happen next. He said the water could continue to rise when this spring’s thaw arrives and more land could be lost to the water.
Consequently, should the drainage system somehow become unclogged, he fears there could be flash flooding at wherever it does drain out.
“That’s the thing,” he said. “No one really knows where the pond runs out.”
Hoyles has not yet paid the Crown land fees billed to him by the provincial government for the cabin property in 2018. Given it’s been underwater most of the year, he has no intentions of paying it.
He said he’s been receiving notices that the outstanding bill has been referred to a collections agency.
He has been working with the Humber-Gros Morne constituency office of Premier Dwight Ball to convince the Department of Fisheries and Land Resources to release him and the other affected cabin owners from their land lease obligations.
Last July, the Department told The Western Star there are no programs available through Crown Lands that would allow reduced or waived fees and cabin owners like Hoyles would still be responsible for payment.
“I don’t know how this is going to go, but we have to get these letters in from the constituency office and see where it goes from there,” said Hoyles.