By Lyonel Doherty
What do beavers and government officials have in common?
For one thing, they aren’t too popular in Oliver right now. For another, well . . . you can probably come up with your own punchline.
That was the sentiment expressed by many residents during Wednesday night’s flood information meeting in the community centre.
Tensions ran high among some people impacted by flooding north of town.
“Never in all my years have I seen such a lack of coordination. It’s disgusting,” said flood victim Tom Kamann. “Where is the command centre?” he asked.
Regional district administrator Bill Newell said headquarters are in Penticton but noted they have officials at different sites in Oliver.
Willowbrook resident Michelle Weisheit asked what the government plans to do proactively to prepare for 2019.
Jeff Wiseman from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said they’ve made a number of improvements to culverts in Oliver, but a lot more needs to be done to “upsize” them.
But Weisheit said culverts in Willowbrook have not been maintained properly, which caused flooding.
“They were maintained,” Wiseman said.
At this point, one woman yelled, “You’ve done nothing!”
Wiseman said they will be installing larger culverts after the floods recede.
But Weisheit shot back: “We don’t want to be flooded every year while we wait for you to act!”
Sportsmen’s Bowl Road resident Dennis Tomlin was upset about the water that was diverted from Secrest Hill Road that ended up in his basement, costing $60,000 in damages.
But dam safety engineer Mike Noseworthy from the Ministry of Forests said they had to make the decision to pump that water out of there or face the potential of the road washing out and causing a debris slide.
Wiseman said the situation could have been another Testalinda mudslide event.
Resident Lloyd Cook said Area C director Terry Schafer is the hardest working man he knows, and asked people to give officials a little time to turn things around.
“I watched the (flood) water go down 10 inches today,” Cook said, referring to the new pumps diverting water to the river channel.
But Cook pointed out that the beaver dams in the area are a big problem. Several people mirrored this concern, blaming beavers for much of the flooding.
But Noseworthy said the ministry will remove beavers only if they become a safety issue. This response prompted one resident to say it’s a safety issue now.
Engineering consultant Caleb Pomeroy said he has recommended that officials address the “significant hydraulic restrictions” in the Park Rill area, including the beavers.
Sportsmen’s Bowl resident Allen Lamb wanted the provincial government to supply him with culverts to deal with all the water on his property. But Wiseman said the ministry doesn’t provide culverts to private property owners.
Fellow evacuee Susanne Ness, who has two children, said she can’t get to her house now because of all the water, which has entered the basement. She explained that officials dug a deep trench/culvert without her permission.
Ness is now staying in a hotel with her two boys, 10 and 12. She noted the water is up to her porch and has resulted in thousands of dollars in damage already. Her children’s safety is another concern.
“It’s stressful, and nobody will give a straight answer . . . everyone is ignoring us.”
Ness said the only person who has really helped her is John Davies from incident command.
Park Rill Road resident Darlene Freding said the flood prevention work over the years has been reactive rather than proactive. Her other concern is the beaver problem. She hired someone to deal with it but somebody destroyed the traps.
“Now it (the area) is a huge messy swamp held back by beavers dams,” she said.
Local resident Gail Blidook noted that a big problem is a lack of communication. She also pointed to inadequate culverts and beaver dams as the culprits.
Ray Hewitt, who lives south of Oliver, presented a solution by saying he would allow an easement on his property to have a trench/culvert put in to move the flow of water to the river.
“We’ve got a week to do something, and this (idea) can be done in a day,” he said.
Conrad Pryce, a water engineer from the Ministry of Forests, said this makes sense and would solve the problem of lakes forming on Road 6. He noted the idea has been presented to the ministry.
Back to Willowbrook, Pomeroy said he has recommended that Goldtau Road be breached to help water flows, however, this would warrant an evacuation. But Goldtau Road resident Donna Cooke said this is news to her. She agreed the road has to be breached but said it was unfortunate that something wasn’t done a year ago to prevent all this.
Local resident Gary Cook said there are a lot of hurt and frightened people in Oliver who need more (and better) communication.
“The evacuation alert . . . I heard it from someone else.”
Cook also questioned why St. Andrews golf course was allowed to drain Prather Lake that flooded downstream properties.
Noseworthy said the lake was at risk of breaching, which would have sent a lot more water toward homes all the way to Sportsmen’s Bowl.