By Lyonel Doherty
On Wednesday when Area C director Terry Schafer said the flood situation will get worse before it gets better, it set the mood for a long meeting.
Approximately 200 people attended the information session at the community centre, where a panel of professionals and government officials answered questions from worried residents.
“It’s okay to be emotional,” said regional district administrator Bill Newell, who noted that rural Oliver has been the most impacted by flooding this year.
But he gave kudos to the Willowbrook and Oliver fire departments for going above and beyond their mandates. He also gave kudos to BC Corrections for putting local inmates to work filling sandbags.
Engineering consultant Caleb Pomeroy said work is continuing to draw water down from Park Rill oxbows and channeling it into Okanagan River. He noted the water had gone down 10 inches on Wednesday. A third pump was added on Thursday on lower Island Way Road.
The Ministry of Forests will start removing obstructions including beaver dams in the Park Rill area.
In Willowbrook, tiger dams have been installed to address high water levels. An evacuation alert has been issued for the Cooke property at the end of Goldtau Road. At Wednesday’s meeting, Donna Cooke said she wasn’t going to evacuate, noting that a helicopter would be needed to take her out “feet first.”
A water impoundment has formed behind that road, prompting the Ministry of Transportation to carry out a controlled breach to draw the water down.
Pumping work continues on Secrest Hill Road, where a risk of a debris flow still exists, according to Pomeroy.
On Roads 6-9 south of Oliver, government officials are looking at drainage designs to install new culverts to safely increase water flow into Okanagan River.
Meanwhile, a new information centre in Oliver (beside MLA Linda Larson’s office) is scheduled to open two hours a day starting next week. The centre will provide residents with flood information and support.
Dam safety engineer Mike Noseworthy from the Ministry of Forests said there is no increase of floodwater from area dams, which are being maintained.
Noseworthy said warm temperatures this week and rain expected this weekend will excelerate the snow-melt, so flood-prone residents are advised to be ready.
Water engineer Conrad Pryce from the Ministry of Forests said “something is changing” that is putting more water in watersheds. Therefore, a drainage plan is needed for the years to come.
“It’s a big problem . . . but we’re trying to take action to minimize the damage. It’s a terrible position we’re in.”
However, several residents at the meeting reminded the panel that they previously warned the powers that be about the flood hazards in Willowbrook and Sportsmen’s Bowl.