In the face of provincial government agencies steadfastly maintaining that it is not their responsibility, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District board has begun taking action to mitigate the rapid and dangerous erosion of Newsome Creek’s banks.
The heavy freshets in 2017 and 2018 caused the creek to change its course, putting homes and businesses along Caen Road in Sorrento at risk if the banks erode further.
The CSRD board sent a letter to Doug Donaldson, the Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources and Rural Development, in Nov. 2018 requesting the province collaborate with the CRSD and private property owners providing necessary funding for a feasibility study on mitigation work in the creek.
A response from Donaldson’s ministry was received on Dec. 21 and discussed at the board’s Jan. 10 meeting.
The response reiterated recommendations in previous reports on the creek suggesting that property owners consider moving their houses and a study be launched to see how the ravine could be stabilized. It also stated that the Water Sustainability Act allows local governments to undertake restoration of a stream channel and goes on to say that the ministry has approved such works for other communities in the CSRD’s current position. The letter from the ministry outlines possible grant funding sources which could help pay for stream mitigation work.
CSRD Chief Administrative Officer Charles Hamilton said he does not agree with the province’s assessment of the division of responsibilities.
“Barring a legal challenge there is a shifting onus onto the CSRD to do something to help the residents living along the boundary of the creek on Caen Road,” he said.
The provincial government had already offered to provide $25,000 to fund half of the feasibility study necessary before work in the stream can begin. The CSRD board voted to fund the other half of the study by reallocating money which had been earmarked for deploying the regional fire department’s structural protection units.
“I think this is a very good use of the funds and very timely,” said CSRD Area C Director Paul Demenok who has been involved with assisting the residents along Newsome Creek for some time.
He added that it is becoming clear that damage to the creek banks caused by the 2017 and 2018 freshets is affecting properties along the entire length of the creek but the situation on Caen Road is the most dire. A group of concerned citizens who call themselves the Newsome Creek Watershed Action Group will be co-hosting a meeting with the CSRD to discuss the state of the entire watershed on Tuesday, January 22, 2019 at 6:30 PM at the Sorrento Memorial Hall.
The board also directed CSRD staff to begin applying for grants which will help pay for the work needed to make the stream banks safe for adjacent homes.