Shuswap groups lobby for flood study

Community Futures Shuswap and a Sicamous company have added their voice in support of undertaking a flood hazard and risk assessment

  • Dec. 4, 2013 6:00 p.m.

Community Futures Shuswap and a Sicamous houseboat company have added their voice in support of Salmon Arm undertaking a flood hazard and risk assessment sooner than later.

Last week, Salmon Arm city council received a presentation from Bill Remphrey and George Zorn on behalf of WA:TER (Wetland Alliance: The Ecological Response), entitled Living on a Flood Plain. The crux of the talk revolved around the city’s need for an assessment to help minimize the risks involved should flooding occur.

Remphrey spoke to historical flooding in the area, including the 2012 flooding in Sicamous and a benchmark-setting flood that occurred in Salmon Arm in 1894.

“Piccadilly Mall and the fairgrounds have all been under water, and many homes and businesses would be as well if this happened again, and it could happen again and it will happen again and maybe even worse,” said Remphrey, who went on to comment how there is no insurance available in Canada for overland flooding. In addition, Canadian insurance companies want flood zone maps updated to take into account the increasing trend of extreme weather.

“In the meantime, since there’s no current insurance for overland floods in Canada, our only insurance really, is to try and get as much information as we can, and use this information such as flood plain maps to come up with preventive measures,” said Remphrey.

Zorn read a letter by Waterway Houseboats chief operating officer Neil Millar, who was unable to make the council meeting. In the letter, Millar relays what that company went through in June 2012 when Sicamous Creek swelled into a debris flow, which nearly devastated the business.

“The costs to our company in terms of stress and financial have been staggering and, quite frankly, nearly sunk our company. The toll is in the millions of dollars.”

Millar goes on to say that Waterway has launched a “compelling case regarding the liability surrounding our damages,” and have launched a claim against the Crown, the District of Sicamous and others.

“I would simply say that analyzing your flood plain and taking the necessary preventative measures proactively would be the only responsible way to proceed.”

At a prior meeting council received a letter from Community Futures Shuswap executive director Joanne Mason, on behalf of chair Charlotte Hutchinson, asking that city council address Salmon Arm’s need for a flood hazard and risk assessment in the 2014 budget.

“We recognize the health of individual businesses and the region as a whole could be significantly impacted should adequate steps not be taken to better understand and mitigate our flood plain risk,” wrote Mason in an email to the Observer. “Our organization sees this advanced planning as simply another step in ensuring the ongoing vibrancy and health of businesses in our region.”

Council did address the assessment by allocating $20,000 to a reserve in the 2014 budget. District Development services director Kevin Pearson said this was a big first step towards an assessment, which he estimated will cost $80,000.

Coun. Ken Jamieson hoped staff would be active in pursuing grant money to help offset the cost. Though the assessment is listed as a medium-term priority in the city’s strategic plan (to be done between 2018 and 2020), Jamieson emphasized he too would like to see it happen next year.