The regional district is advising residents to prepare for more flooding this spring.
Emergency preparedness officials say an imminent risk of flooding remains due to continued high groundwater throughout the region.
Therefore, residents living in areas impacted by flooding in recent years should have a preparedness plan in place.
According to professional engineers working with the regional district, groundwater levels are currently higher than normal due to wet conditions experienced last year. This has created an “increased potential for flooding during freshet in 2019.”
Emergency officials urge residents to prepare a “grab-and-go” kit consisting of important documents, medications and eyeglasses.
The region’s Emergency Operations Centre has established a flood and wildfire recovery team to continue working with people impacted by the 2018 floods. The team consists of recovery manager Jon Wilson, recovery coordinator Patty Otteson and information officer Erick Thompson.
The Chronicle sat down with Area C director Rick Knodel to discuss potential flooding in rural Oliver this year.
He was asked point blank how he feels about heading into another flood season.
“Let’s put it this way: I’m cautiously optimistic.”
Knodel said final work has not been done on Sportsmen’s Bowl Road, adding that most of the work completed by the Ministry of Transportation was a legal requirement to keep the road open and make it safe for snow plow operators.
“There’s quite a concern by a lot of people who see this work going on and they think this is the final route (for Park Rill Creek). But the final route has not been decided.”
The creek currently runs down the south side of the road, and new culverts have been put in to accommodate higher flows.
• Read more: Orchardist’s land swallowed up by flooding
Knodel said to think you won’t see anymore flooding in the bowl is the wrong assumption.
The Ministry of Forests has to find a permanent route for the creek, he said.
Many residents want to see the creek back to where it was historically, he pointed out.
“My point of view is I would think that would be the best way. But I won’t speculate why the engineers haven’t come out and said that.”
Knodel said engineers have to know what’s happening in one area before they can fix another area.
In Willowbrook, previously inadequate culverts will no longer be an issue, but he believes residents will still see flooding this year.
“What might be an issue is the exit out of Myers Flats.”
Knodel said new culverts in the Road 6 to 9 area should fix the flooding problem there (by draining the water below the drop structure.
Of course, concerns will always be above the irrigation flume if there’s more runoff from the area previously burned by wildfire, he noted.
The other concern is the mosquito-breeding problem, which the regional district is trying to get a handle on, Knodel pointed out.
In the Park Rill Road area, Knodel is hoping that officials have the pumps ready to go on Okanagan River again.
Knodel met with Boundary-Similkameen MLA Linda Larson recently to discuss flood preparations and future mitigations.
The director said there is a desperate need to relax environmental controls to allow landowners to place concrete locking blocks, remove beaver dams, build berms and remove silt from previous runoffs.
He added that depth restoration and maintenance to the Okanagan River bed is a must. If this maintenance isn’t done, you will see failure, he said, likening it to buying a car but never changing the oil or tires.
“This is a case of radical environmentalism being carried to the point of idiocy; being allowed to endanger private property and destroy valuable infrastructure with little or if any measurable benefit.”
According to Knodel, local residents are increasingly being left out of the information train.
• Read more: When will flooding end? (MLA report, May 2018)
He said the thought of creating a service for creek and riverbed maintenance and billing that cost back to residents is not feasible. “To put that onto 5,000 residents is a lovely way to create poverty and homelessness.”
Knodel said it has also been shown that clear-cut logging in the alpine has added to the rapid runoff situations that are causing many immediate and long-term problems in valley areas.
The director believes neighbourhoods should be empowered to use their human resources (church groups) to dispatch volunteers to areas in need of aid.
“We have been missing the boat here badly and the cost is only a few phone lines and white boards.”
Knodel said this would greatly reduce the load and expectancies on emergency operation centres.