The Columbia Shuswap Regional District and the Newsome Creek Watershed Action Group are hoping the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure will shore up the rest of the Newsome Creek bank while they replace two culverts in the area. (Newsome Creek Watershed Action Group Image)

Residents of Newsome Creek in South Shuswap bracing for freshet

It is hoped a culvert replacement project could be scaled up to fix the eroding creek bank

The sound of rushing water is deafening from the deck of Jocelyne Gilbert’s home on Caen Road in Sorrento.

Gilbert is one of the residents whose house sits atop the steep bank with slopes down into Newsome Creek.

The state of that bank has been a concern for residents in recent years as the stream has changed course, eroding deep into the banks and undermining parts of people’s properties. After lobbying from the Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) and a group of area residents, engineers investigated possible mitigation work for the banks. No firm plans have been made yet.

In March, both the Newsome Creek Watershed Action Group and the CSRD sent letters to Mike Farnworth, B.C.’s Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General, asking that work on the stretch of Newsome Creek where residences are threatened be included with a project already planned for the area. The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) is planning to replace both of the culverts which allow the creek to cross under the Trans-Canada Highway and Dieppe Road.

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The request from the CSRD notes that as part of its culvert replacement work, MOTI will have to stabilize the banks around the road. The CSRD’s letter asks Emergency Management BC to support its request to MOTI to expand the scope of its project to armoring the banks between the Trans-Canada Highway and Dieppe Road. The letter states that 300 to 400 metres of the fragile creek bank will remain unprotected if all the ministry does is shore up 50 to 100 metres of bank on either side of the culverts.

The regional district offered to partner with the transportation ministry in applying for a Community Emergency Preparedness Fund grant for $750,000 to help fund a portion of the project.

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High stream flows driven by snow pillow levels which reached 130 per cent of normal in some areas have already begun.

The CSRD’s March 24 letter to Minister Farnworth states that the situation in the creek is worsening. The regional district has activated an emergency operations centre to respond to erosion in the creek’s watershed. The CSRD expressed concern with the stability of the banks in light of the deep snow and the coming freshet.

With the freshet here, Gilbert said the undercut beneath her property continues to grow deeper and trees are falling on both sides of the bank. She is a home-based hairdresser whose business has been temporarily halted by COVID-19 but says she hasn’t been able to enjoy the time off due to stress caused by the raging creek. Gilbert added that the undercut portion of one of her neighbour’s property collapsed, leaving a steep drop into creek below. She said her neighbours share her concerns and are on edge as the creek roars below their homes.

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