High water threatens Grist Mill

Volunteers worked quickly to fill sandbags and put them in place to protect the mill from high water

Volunteers rushed to the Grist Mill’s rescue Wednesday night as high and fast water threatened the provincial historical site.

Chris Mathieson, operator of the Grist Mill, put a call out through social media for volunteers to help with sandbagging as water levels came within inches of touching the building.

“(It’s) less than a foot from the bottom of the mill itself now and we haven’t even hit the top of the water yet… usually after hot weather this time of year it’s about 36 hours still the creek crests so we are actually worried it may actually come up and touch the mill,” Mathieson said.

The Keremeos Creek, which supplies water to the grist mill when it’s operational, is rushing fast and furious since the warm spell over the weekend.

About eight volunteers answered the call for help, several who were camping at the site as well as a few people from the community. The group worked for over 90 minutes filling over 150 sandbags to secure the building.

“Hopefully we can get this all sandbagged and protect this wonderful piece of similkameen heritage and hopefully the river comes down soon,” Mathieson said just before work began.

The group vigorously filled sandbags and then packed the bags along about 15-feet of the creek’s edge closest to the mill.

Mathieson said the mill lost it’s original water wheel about 100 years ago as high rushing water destroyed it causing it to break off and smash down the creek.

Currently work is underway to rebuild the water wheel. The restoration is part of regular maintenance as water causes the wood to decay overtime.

Mathieson said he was thankful that the wheel was not operational as rushing water going through the mill now would cause a lot more problems.

Currently in the Lower Similkameen there is localized flooding in the Olalla with at least four homes under temporary evacuation on 1st Street. The water is pooling in the area as it’s filtered through Twin Lakes.

On 7th Street in Olalla the Olalla Creek continues to rush through properties. A fair amount of sandbagging has been done in the area to stop the creek from spilling over.

An orchard on Highway 3 just off Upper Bench is also partially flooded from the creek rushing too quickly for the culverts.

Everyone is reminded to stay away from the river and the creeks as banks can erode quickly and water courses change if debris gets in the way.