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VIDEO: Flooding at Salmon Arm business washes onto and closes section of new frontage road

Business owners question why section of was road lowered as part of Highway 1 project

Flooding is a common spring occurrence at DeMille’s Farm Market, but until last weekend, owner Brad DeMille said he never seen water flow from his field onto the adjacent frontage road that recently served as part of Highway 1.

On Monday morning, May 8, DeMille stood perplexed, watching as water from the Salmon River continued to move from one of his fields over the newly constructed walking path and frontage road.

Signage and cones marking the road as closed were placed in front of DeMille’s and at the frontage road access west of the bridge.

Water had also flooded part of the frontage road east of DeMille’s and Pedro’s Farm Market. As of Monday morning, that section of road was reduced to a single-lane.

DeMille’s befuddlement had to do with the decision to lower the road in front of his property, east of the old Salmon River Bridge. The road work was done as part of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s (MOTI) $185 million, nearly completed, Salmon Arm West project, which included widening a section of the highway to four lanes and constructing a replacement for the aging bridge that continues to provide access to the frontage road passing DeMille’s.

“They lowered the road to allow it to flood over, but what they didn’t take into mind is that all that gravel and sand will erode away and undermine the walking path, and undermine the road path if it has enough velocity,” said DeMille. “It’s clearly going back into the river channel.”

The ministry and its maintenance contractor are monitoring water levels throughout the Shuswap for any impacts to highway and side road networks from the spring freshet. Regarding the frontage road flooding, the ministry said the water must recede first before it can determine if the road has been damaged.

“Once the ministry is able to assess the road, we will know whether it is safe for traffic to use or repairs are required,” said a the ministry in an email. “In the meantime, the ministry has placed signage to inform motorists that the road is closed.”

Read more: ‘Absolutely great news’: Salmon Arm councillors thrilled with floodplain mapping plan

Read more: Salmon River flood watch causing less consternation than previous years

DeMille said the road could have been left at its former height and culverts added to divert water back to the river.

While he’s used to losing use of a field in the spring when the Salmon River rises, he said it’s something that only lasts a few weeks, “and then we move on.” Seeing the road closed due to flooding, however, is another challenge posed to his business by the highway project.

“It’s frustrating because we’ve endured all this for three years now, and then the final design gives us this?” said DeMille.

Dan Minsky shares some of DeMille’s frustration. Minsky co-owns the food truck The Yukon Smash with Jodi Buyck. For this summer, the duo will be operating the food truck at DeMille’s, and have even paid for a billboard along the highway, pointing traffic towards the exit route that was closed due to the flooding.

“I think the real story is everyone seems to know this thing floods except for the ones who built it…,” said Minsky, who is concerned needed corrections could further impact business. “That’s part of the story is the gross incompetence. It’s a $180 million project already… Talking to a few locals would have saved all of that. It’s crazy that that didn’t happen.”

Salmon Arm Mayor Alan Harrison said city staff have been in touch with MOTI about the flooding and want to see the issue remedied as the city is supposed to inherit the new walking path and frontage road two years after construction is complete.

“It will be a huge asset for the city, but it needs to be secure, it needs to be at the right height, because we don’t want to take on a piece of infrastructure that needs to be fixed and we have no intention of doing that,” said Harrison.

As of May 8, the B.C. River Forecast Centre continued to have the Salmon River, including sections of Salmon Arm and Falkland, on Flood Watch status.

The above story was updated May 9 to include comment from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
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The driver of a pick-up truck safely navigates through the flooded and closed section of frontage road at DeMille’s Farm Market on Monday morning, May 8, 2023. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer.