While the majority of city council voted to approve the SmartCentres development permit applications, concerns from the Neskonlith Indian Band about flooding have not been appeased.
In a July 7 letter to the city, Chief Judy Wilson urged the city to not approve the Hazardous Areas Permit application until after meaningful consultation with the band had taken place.
Last month the Neskonlith provided a report to city council and staff from Dr. Michael Church, a professional engineer who specializes in fluvial geomorphology, or natural stream channel design. On July 5, Church reiterated his belief that “the proposed project presents significant issues of environmental integrity.”
The July 7 letter from Wilson to the city states: “Notwithstanding the Stantec response, Professor Church’s opinion remains that the flooding risk posed by the property and the potential impacts on neighbouring ecological values have not been properly assessed, and that further work is required. He continues to reject the conclusion of Stantec that this development is safe for its intended use and that there are no hazards which preclude the construction of the development.”
Stantec engineers provided a report for SmartCentres on flood hazard as well as responding on June 24 to Church’s report. Stantec concluded there will be no measurable increase in the current flood hazard risk to adjacent properties from the development.
Differences between the two engineering reports centered on differing calculations for flood level construction as well as the accuracy of the 200-year flood level.
Stantec’s June 24 reply to Church’s report states: “Dr. Church also theorizes that flood flows in the Salmon River are increasing due to three main factors (land use change, forest harvesting and beetle kill, and climate change) with changes in forest cover likely responsible for the majority of recent changes in the hydrology. Stantec had also made the same observation that change in forest cover may be affecting hydrology; however, this is a reversible condition as natural revegetation and reforestation occurs over the mid and long term.”
Church had noted that three of the four largest freshets on record for the Salmon River occurred in 1996, 1997 and 2008, and Stantec replied that none resulted in water levels approaching the recommended flood construction level. In a July 5 letter, Church stated that Stantec’s June 24 memorandum doesn’t change his opinion.
With regard to increasing flood flows, he stated: “The recent 20-year trend of rising flows in the river is dismissed by Stantec on grounds that events in the watershed, such as forest regrowth, must eventually reverse the effect. I regard this as an entirely irresponsible position to take.”