The weeks of flooding stories and media are starting to make us wonder if it will ever end. For almost two months, we have watched neighbourhoods and residents try to manage what, for some, has been a repeat performance of last year, and for others, a new and totally devastating experience.
Throughout all this time an incredibly knowledgeable and hardworking staff from several government agencies and ministries have been working around the clock to support residents and mitigate damage.
In the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen getting an Emergency Operations Centre up and running was done quickly and efficiently as many involved had experience from last year’s flooding. Emergency Management BC (EMBC), the Ministry of Highways, Environment, Forests and Lands and First Nations were all brought into the operation very quickly. Paul Edmonds has done an excellent job managing Emergency Operations out of the Penticton RDOS.
When possible, I have met those impacted by the flood and toured most of the areas affected. As the Legislature is sitting in Victoria, I have also been able to meet with all Ministry Staff on a regular basis and forward requests for assistance to the appropriate Ministries. I will continue to do so as we all work through a recovery and rebuild process.
We are all very grateful for the men and women of the BC Forest Fire Services who were here very quickly supplying the much needed bodies to help with all aspects of flood control. And now the Canadian Military has been deployed around our region and all of BC as flooding continues, allowing many of the Forest Service’s personnel to leave and prepare to fight fires already starting around the Province.
Flood water is “nonpartisan.” It goes where ever it wants, whenever it wants. Starting in Willowbrook weeks ago, it has continued to damage properties and infrastructure. Local champions like Michelle Weisheit continue to raise issues that need to be addressed by all levels of governments looking to the future of flood control. Coral Brown and her volunteers at Twin Lakes have lobbied for years for a better storage and flood management plan for their Watershed.
The water has been unforgiving — taking the path of least resistance — as the people of Sportsman’s Bowl can attest to and those in Park Rill, as the water made its way to the river. Every community in my riding of Boundary-Similkameen has been under a state of emergency and continues to be until the snow pack is gone. Okanagan Falls residents along Shuttleworth Creek were forced to a hasty retreat, and while it was only temporary, the damage had been done.
In Princeton, the rising Tulameen River forced many evacuations and from Princeton to Hedley, Keremeos, Cawston and the Lower Similkameen First Nations, the unpredictable Similkameen River and incredibly high ground water continues to be a major concern.
And all that water ends up in Osoyoos Lake. A “thumbs up” to Mayor Sue McKortoff who not only filled sandbags on Mother’s Day, but made sure the press put out a good news story about the tourist attractions not impacted by flood waters in Osoyoos for the May holiday weekend.
Special thanks to the Keremeos Elks who put on a great rodeo and parade, in spite of the ongoing flood issues.
We have for years allowed people and whole communities to develop and build on what is traditionally a “flood plain.” This is the second year that flooding has occurred in these areas and going forward there does not appear to be an end in sight. The ground water continued to remain above the old norms last year even after a long hot summer — starting this year’s flood season with the ground already saturated. Will it be any different next year?
There will be several meetings when this flood season is over and I know it is important for all of you to be involved in the talks going forward. It is time to draw on the “local knowledge” to ensure a flood mitigation plan that will have positive results.
Please stay away from our very dangerous rivers for the next several weeks and thank you to all who stepped up to help out your neighbour’s over the past several weeks.
MLA Linda Larson