The District of Sicamous has agreed to pay $30,000 for an early warning system to alert residents of the Sicamous Creek Mobile Home Park in the event of a debris flood or debris flood. (Google Earth image)

Sicamous agrees to fund $30,000 for debris flow early warning system

If Emergency Management B.C. agrees to fund project, district’s money would be reimbursed

Sicamous council has agreed to fund a debris flood/flow early warning system for Two Mile if Emergency Management B.C. doesn’t come through on the $30,000 expense.

At its March 9 meeting, council received an update regarding ongoing concerns in the Wiseman Creek area of Two Mile from Derek Sutherland, Columbia Shuswap Regional District protective services team leader.

Providing a recap on findings to date, Sutherland referred to a study by BGC Engineering which determined that damage caused to the landscape from summer’s Two Mile Road wildfire has put the Sicamous Creek Mobile Home Park at risk of a debris flood, and possibly a debris flow.

Sutherland said the risk of a debris flood is 100 per cent. However, if one results from a relatively low level rain event, he said it would be more of a nuisance situation than a risk to safety.

“But there’s about a 75 per cent chance of a debris flow,” said Sutherland, stressing this could be much more devastating.

Addressing mitigation options, Sutherland said there are four “big asks” for funding from Emergency Management B.C. (EMBC), none of which have been approved.

One of them, to conduct a feasibility study for moving the mobile homes, was denied by one branch of EMBC but forwarded to the organization’s mitigation branch.

“It’s still assessing whether they will fund this study,” said Sutherland, adding it’s not the ideal solution as there are a lot of complexities involved. “This study is to inform us if this is a viable option or not.”

Funding was requested for another option, an early warning system, in early December. Sutherland said it had not yet been approved by EMBC. He was informed the wildfires of 2021 created similar issues elsewhere in the province and there have been a lot of requests for similar early warning systems, which cost $30,000.

Sutherland added freshet starts in April and “that’s what we consider as the beginning of our landslide season.”

In addition to mitigation options, Sutherland detailed efforts around communication with residents of the mobile park to set up support protocols for potential evacuations, and with the Sicamous and District Seniors Centre which would serve as a reception centre if an evacuation should occur.

Following Sutherland’s presentation, Coun. Jeff Mallmes suggested a motion that the district fund $15,000 of the cost.

“Those people over there have the right to know whether the side of that hill is coming down,” said Mallmes.

Sutherland said if EMBC does agree to fund the cost of the warning system, the district’s money would be reimbursed. However, he also cautioned council that if it were to agree to fund the warning system, EMBC might be more inclined to deny the funding.

“We’ve got to have a warning system in place for the safety of those people… We can’t wait for other people to make decisions on this,” said Mayor Terry Rysz, who with Mallmes asked how the district could fund the entire $30,000. Noting the 2022 budget has yet to be finalized, chief financial officer Kelly Bennett said the money could come from the district’s operating reserve “which then doesn’t necessarily affect taxes.”

Sutherland said the warning system is ready to be implemented as soon as the CSRD can give the go-ahead.

Council supported a motion to fund the full $30,000 unless EMBC indicated by Friday, March 11 that funding would be available. As of Friday afternoon, EMBC had yet to say it would.

Read more: Support denied for debris flow mitigation options proposed for Sicamous mobile park

Read more: Sicamous trailer park at increased risk of debris flow following summer’s wildfire


lachlan@saobserver.net
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