Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) Directors are sending an urgent letter to the province for it to fund needed studies and all mitigation works to protect the Newsome Creek stream banks, which are causing a hazardous situation for residents along Caen Road in Sorrento.
CSRD Directors voted unanimously in favour of sending the letters, noting the Water Act clearly defines stream activity as a provincial government responsibility, meaning the province should be funding the appropriate works to protect the safety of residents and the security of the properties at risk from the stream erosion.
Both the 2017 and 2018 spring freshets caused significant erosion to the banks in the reaches of the creek below the Trans-Canada Highway in Sorrento, affecting several properties along Caen Road. Stream bank undercutting and slope failures in 2018 resulted in the CSRD’s Shuswap Emergency Program receiving funding from Emergency Management BC to conduct an assessment of the erosion and risk to people and property
Further stream bank erosion continues to be very likely, especially in spring 2019 when high stream flows are anticipated.
Calling the situation an impending disaster, Electoral Area C Director Paul Demenok says the Province needs to take immediate emergency action to protect residents and property from the impact of the water which is undercutting the banks of Newsome Creek and destabilizing the area.
In addition to the letter to both the Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development and the Solicitor General, Demenok said the CSRD has requested meetings with government officials in Victoria to address the situation. An application for funds from Emergency Management BC is also in progress.
Demenok noted that while 11 properties had to be placed under Evacuation Alert, the issues affect many more Sorrento residents. He said roadways have been washed out by flooding, debris from the creek is damaging beaches and Boil Water Notices have been issued in the area due to the high levels of sediment being deposited from the creek, which is located near the community’s Markwart Water Intake.
The province has indicated they believe the issues falls into the jurisdiction of the CSRD, as private land surrounds Newsome Creek. The CSRD, however, continues to disagree with this interpretation, as it is the watercourse causing the issues with slope stability.
“The water in the creek belongs to the Province. It is the water that is doing damage to the property… Any work we do in the creek has to be approved by the province. Doesn’t that suggest they have responsibility,” says Demenok.
Residents of the area have banded together to form the Newsome Creek Watershed Action Group and a number of its members attended the November 15, 2018 Board meeting to ask for continued support from the Board.
“The problem is not yours. It belongs to the Province,” said Norm Martin, a spokesperson for the group. “We appreciate your continued support and effort to get attention to this situation. We can’t wait until spring. We can’t wait for another study.”
Martin stressed the urgency of the situation for the residents.
“We could lose homes. People could lose their places of business. We could even lose lives. If that bank slides in the middle of the night, people haven’t got a hope.”
Salmon Arm Municipal Director Kevin Flynn says the CSRD Board should do whatever it can to push the province for action.
“It is inexcusable the province has not given this more attention… The more noise we make on this, the better.”