By Lyonel Doherty
The regional district is mulling over some expensive options for a solution to flooding in the Park Rill watershed.
The district just released a consultant’s report reviewing alternatives to upgrading the watercourse capable of handling a one-in-200-year flood event like what happened last year in the Sportsmen’s Bowl area.
One recommended option is re-aligning Park Rill Creek by constructing 150 metres of new channel on 352 and 340 Sportsmen’s Bowl Road to direct the creek back to its historic alignment on the north side of the bowl. Channel bank stabilization work is also recommended.
In addition to upgrades to public road crossings, there will be increased capacity at Okanagan River with the construction of a pump station.
Another option is constructing a dam directly downstream of Myers Flats to manage peak water flows.
The study points to challenges in the Sportsmen’s Bowl area that include space constraints and limitations in the road right-of-way to accommodate a channel. Whatever option the district chooses would significantly impact properties in that area. The study indicates that one area where works are proposed is located within a registered archeological site.
One recommended flood response action for Highway 97 to Secrest Hill Road is the installation of 700 metres of tiger dams to protect low-lying private properties on both sides of the creek.
Another recommendation is a sediment catchment area between Sportsmen’s Bowl Road and Highway 97. This would allow sediment to settle out prior to discharging through the culverts.
It is also recommended that a stability and erosion assessment be conducted of the creek channel between the rifle range and Secrest Hill Road to determine risk areas that could trigger a debris flow.
According to the consultant (Ecora), Secrest Hill Road is a “risk to public safety.” If the culverts are not replaced, it is recommended that this crossing be monitored daily for signs of seepage and piping failure.
The “consequence of failure includes the likely loss of life for downstream residents,” the consultant says.
Asked to comment on the study, Area C director Rick Knodel said his biggest concern is the government’s culvert permitting system that has “failed us badly.”
“This can’t be allowed to continue because it’s making it impossible to move ahead. We still have residents who are separated from their properties by lack of culverting because you can’t get a permit to put them in.”
Knodel said the other travesty is the cost, noting a simple culvert to access an orchard is more than $20,000, which he believes is “ludicrous.”
But the director is happy that some common sense has prevailed in the fact the creek will be relocated in Sportsmen’s Bowl.
“The residents knew that was the best way to go.”
Knodel said it has been recommended that one property be bought out and used as a staging area, meaning that government has to negotiate a price with the owners.
“The really horrifying thing to me is this is just one creek; we still have to deal with Fairview, Hester, and Tinhorn . . . it’s the tip of a very large iceberg.”
He noted the total bill for the Park Rill watershed is about $11 million. Upgrades from Okanagan River to Highway 97 are estimated at $8 million, while upgrades from Highway 97 to Secrest Hill Road will be approximately $1.8 million.
“Add that to $5 million for the (Gallagher Lake) siphon repair and we are beyond what our citizens can handle.”
Knodel said he plans to sit down with local MLA Linda Larson to talk about funding sources.
As far as future flooding goes, the director believes this region should be on a downturn for a while since last year was the peak.
“We’re not likely to have flooding, but everyone’s crystal ball is a little foggy these days.”
Knodel said his biggest priority is bringing Sportsmen’s Bowl houses back into the fold, noting a lot of people are still greatly impacted by last year’s flooding.
He stated that once the culvert situation is straightened out, people can go back to their lives, which is what this story is all about.
The director believes the best case scenario is to put the creek in a place where it doesn’t affect the properties; perhaps aqueduct it around the farms and down to the river.
Until then, the Sportsmen’s Bowl area will likely remain under a State of Local Emergency. While it doesn’t look that bad from the highway, Knodel said all you have to do is drive down there and take a look.
The remaining issue, of course, is funding. The director said these property owners are on limited incomes, and the small farms nestled there can’t carry any additional financial burden.