By Lyonel Doherty
Sportsmen’s Bowl Road evacuees who are antsy to return to their homes will have to stretch their patience a little more.
Despite a significant decrease in floodwaters, there doesn’t appear to be any immediate plans to let homeowners back in.
A lot of people are wanting to move back home,” said Area C director Terry Schafer as he gazed down into the “bowl” from Secrest Hill Road.
“A little more patience is required from the evacuees,” he noted.
Schafer took a tour of the area Wednesday to get an update on what was happening.
He pointed out that water is no longer being diverted (pumped) across Secrest Hill Road, which is now fully open to traffic. It wasn’t long ago that fear prompted visions of the road washing out and creating a mudslide.
In fact, the regional district has rescinded evacuation alerts for 131 properties in the Park Rill/Secrest Hill area.
Standing at the foot of Sportsmen’s Bowl Road, Schafer was pleased to see the water receding. But he was hoping the Ministry of Transportation would focus on removing silt and realigning the creek (Park Rill) to where it used to flow in order to get the water off Sportsmen’s Bowl Road. He said if he had the equipment, he would do it himself. But he was told by a ministry official that there is still too much water on the road to undertake that task. A sign on site indicates that road damage assessment was to begin on May 22.
“Fixing the road is not a high priority, but getting the people back home is,” Schafer said.
The director expressed his happiness to see a lot less water on the road, but said it’s now up to the ministry to determine when evacuees can return home.
However, Schafer worries that spring flooding like homeowners are seeing this year will be the “new normal.”
South of Oliver, between Road 6 and 9, flooding is still an issue, but water levels there are receding as well.
Road 6 orchardist Ray Hewitt confirmed this, but noted the east side is still under water. He note the establishment of new culverts along Road 6 are working well but have yet to take the water all the way to Okanagan River, the ideal scenario.
However, that will be remedied soon.
Road 9 resident Gordon Kirby said a mitigation plan is in the works to establish a drainage (culvert) system with the key being to channel the water to the river below the Road 9 drop structure.
Kirby said the water level in the neighbourhood has dropped significantly, thanks to two large pumps that have been working 24 hours a day escorting the floodwaters to the river.
Schafer said much of his time as regional director has been spent on responding to disasters, and he’s hoping that will change.
“What I’ve learned is that I have no powers; all I can do is lobby. Where the real power lives is with residents getting together and demanding what they want.”
He pointed to Willowbrook where residents banded together to address the flooding without much government involvement.
“The outcry from residents is what makes things happen,” Schafer said.
For example, south of Oliver, residents have been calling for a proper drainage system between Road 6 and 9. And they’re getting it.
Kirby said this is the best news he’s heard since he began lobbying years ago.
“They’re finally listening to us,” he said while standing in his garden oasis, some of which is still under water.
The homeowner has raised concerns to government regarding the trouble caused by fires and their effect on local creeks, such as Reed, Togo and Tinhorn.
“Fire has changed everything!” he said.
Kirby said this year’s flooding was much worse than last year, but luckily there was no damage to his house. He attributes this to the large pumps at the head of his driveway.
He, too, is afraid that flooding and fires could be the new normal every spring and summer. But again, he’s hoping the new drainage plan will prevent these floods.
Kirby said it took a whole year for him to find the right button to push and the right person to get the ball rolling on this mitigation plan.
He gives kudos to Ministry of Forest’s water engineer Conrad Pryce for his role in the plan.
Kirby pointed out that he approached MLA Linda Larson for her support but didn’t get anywhere.
What he learned was if you want to express your concerns via email, do it directly with the person you want to contact, don’t cc anyone because they won’t read it.