Houseboat company’s lawsuit claims government negligence

Waterway Houseboats seeking $1.7 million from province, District of Sicamous after flooding damaged property.

  • Aug. 21, 2012 5:00 p.m.

Flood scene: This photo shows the water and debris that flowed through the Waterway Houseboats property in Sicamous.

A Shuswap houseboat-rental company is suing two levels of government for nearly $2 million after torrential floods in June caused substantial property damage — a flash flood the company says was caused by government negligence.

Court documents obtained by the newspaper show Waterway Houseboats Ltd. and Vinco Holdings Ltd. — operators of Waterway Houseboats on Mara Lake in Sicamous — are suing the provincial government and the District of Sicamous for $1.7 million.

The documents, filed Monday (Aug. 20) in B.C. Supreme Court in Kamloops, claim the June 23 flash flood can be attributed largely to the work of provincial officials in the 1990s who built a forestry road — Skyline Forest Service Road — to provide better timber access for loggers.

“The natural channel that formed the banks of Sicamous Creek was altered [when the road was built] and a culvert was installed in place of the natural channel,” the documents state, adding that increased logging after the road was built also caused increased water flow in the creek since the 1990s.

When water levels rose in June, the culvert became clogged with debris. The end result was a devastating flash flood believed to have caused damage in the millions of dollars.

“The forest service road effectively became a dam that caused a large volume of water and debris to accumulate,” the documents read.

“A torrent of water, mud, sand, boulders, trees and other debris was unleashed.

“The flood and debris torrent that came down the creek bed was enormous and totally unleashed. It swept away everything in its path.”

The documents claim the impact on Waterway Houseboats was increased because of a bridge — property of the District of Sicamous — that “diverted the flood and debris torrent north and directly on to the plaintiffs’ property.

“As a result, the water, mud, sand, boulders, trees, cars and other debris entered the plaintiffs’ land and caused severe damage.”

Waterway Houseboats claims in the documents to have spent $400,000 on clean-up after the flood — money the company wants reimbursed by the provincial and municipal governments.

In addition, Waterway is looking for $800,000 to cover the customer refunds they claim to have doled out, and another $500,000 in lost business.

Officials in Sicamous are still working on figuring out how much damage the flash flood caused.

Waterway Houseboats re-opened for limited business on July 12.

None of the allegations in the documents have been proven in court.

Both defendants — the provincial government and the District of Sicamous — have 30 days to file a response.

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