News of heavy snow packs in the mountains is ominous for those who live along Newsome Creek.
Concern has been mounting among residents along the steep banks of the creek that runs through Sorrento. Erosion during the heavy spring freshets of 2017 and 2018 put those homes at risk. The worry now is that high water caused by the melt this spring could lead to evacuations of the homes, or a collapse of the creek bank.
Speaking on behalf of the Newsome Creek Watershed Action Group, Mark Hemmingson said residents expect there will be more erosion this spring possibly affecting water quality and leading to another boil water advisory. He said the danger posed by falling trees is also at the front of residents’ minds as some of the trees clinging to the creek banks came down this winter.
The watershed action group was given a summary of observations made by Kevin Turner, an engineer from Westrek Geotechnical Services Ltd. following a visit to the creek on Feb. 29. As of now, the water level in the creek remains low. Despite this, Turner notes further erosion had taken place, likely from water leaving the ground.
The erosion is affecting the near vertical silt banks. About two cubic metres of material slid away from one of the banks as the Westrek staff were nearby monitoring the creek. Turner’s report notes no new undercutting of the fragile parts of the bank has occurred, but the bank remains unstable so people should stay out of the gully and remain cautious near the edge of it.
Hemmingson said residents living in the area are growing impatient with level of involvement by the provincial government. While Westrek is monitoring the portion of the creek most immediately affected by erosion, the province says it sees no value in studying the area upstream of the Trans-Canada Highway. Hemmingson said the watershed action group is drafting a response to a letter from Mike Farnworth, the Minister of Public Safety. In the letter, Farnworth states the province’s Water Stewardship Division does not think an upstream study will add value in identifying solutions to the ongoing erosion. The letter also states the Trans-Canada Highway culvert upgrade promised by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is not expected until at least the summer of 2020. Farnworth goes on to recommend some possible funding sources that could be tapped into to help address the erosion issue.
Funding is a major obstacle as the mitigation work proposed by engineers in the summer of 2019 is expected to cost between $4.8 and $6.2 million.