The residents of Caen Road in Sorrento need help from the province of British Columbia, and they need it soon.
In fact, their problem is one that also affects all residents who receive their water from the CSRD’s Sorrento Water System.
The central problem is that Newsome Creek, during the 2017 and 2018 freshets, turned into a highly erosive torrent of water which significantly eroded the walls of the ravine it flows through to Shuswap Lake. This erosion has undercut the walls of the ravine such that there are now 47 trees identified in the ravine that pose a danger to adjoining houses, workshops, garages and studios. Much more concerning, however, is that the erosion of the banks of the ravine now poses a threat to lives and property if substantial mitigation works are not carried out.
The concern here is that the 2019 freshet might generate enough further erosion that the foundations of houses and other buildings may be further undercut and may collapse into the Newsome Creek ravine.
Following prompting from the CSRD, the province did approve and fund geotechnical reports to evaluate the problem. The 2018 report conducted by Westrek Geotechnical Services made four recommendations which may be summarized as follows:
• Residents be provided with a copy of the report, and should continue to monitor the gully sidewalls for erosion, bank failures or deformation at the gully crest.
• A study should be conducted to assess the tributary creeks above Highway 1 for stability and avulsion potential, to evaluate the hydrologic capacity at each infrastructure crossing, and to assess the feasibility of improving the hydrologic function of the stream system.
• A feasibility study should be conducted to determine how the gully below Highway 1 could be stabilized.
• The condition of the existing culvert and embankment in the Highway 1 crossing should be evaluated and stabilized as necessary.
These recommendations were discussed at a meeting convened with Caen Road residents, CSRD staff and others on October 18. The residents made it clear they have been monitoring the situation for quite some time, but that they did not have the capacity, nor the authority to act on three of the four recommendations. When representatives of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) and the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations, and Rural Development (MFLNRORD) at the meeting were asked if they could provide any solutions, they indicated that they could not.
Following the meeting, Global News Kelowna reported on this issue. When asked by the reporter to provide commentary, the province issued a statement which attempted to download the responsibility for conducting further studies and mitigation onto the CSRD. This, of course, is nothing more than a cynical attempt to avoid taking responsibility and to avoid the associated costs of doing the right thing. It’s of interest to note that in that same statement, the offer was made to help obtain the provincial approvals necessary before the mitigation could be done! How could approvals be needed from the province if they have no responsibility?
It is quite clear under the Water Act that the stream bed and the water flowing through it are under the authority of the province, and therefore, put simply, it is their responsibility to repair the damage their water caused. It should also be noted the approval of the subdivision, the undersized culverts under Highway 1 which converted the stream into a power washer and the undersized culverts under Dieppe Road which led to it being washed away last spring are all under the authority of MoTI. Furthermore, logging on Black Mountain, which I understand has yet to be re-planted, and which may have contributed to the increase in water flow in Newsome Creek, is under the authority of MFLNRORD (Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources and Rural Development).
The substantial erosion of the ravine banks along Newsome Creek generated considerable turbidity, which led to the creation of a massive delta where the creek enters Shuswap Lake. This turbidity has been associated as a contributing factor to the issuance of boil water advisories for the Sorrento Water System over the past two years. So what may appear to be a localized problem actually has repercussions affecting an entire community.
So where do we go from here?
The residents of Caen Road are now meeting weekly to discuss all options and to determine their approach. Letters from the residents committee are going to be sent to the appropriate provincial ministries to directly request timely intervention. CSRD staff are contacting provincial staff to discuss the matter in further detail, and I’m working with the residents and our MLA and MP in efforts to get some sort of advancement with the province. The residents are planning to create a website to publicize all of the information they have. I would encourage you to actively watch for additional information on this critical issue in the near future. There has been no decision to approach the entire community for help as yet, but this is a possibility to consider.
-Paul Demenok is the Area C Director for the Columbia Shuswap Regional District