A roadway contract worker speaks with a local resident just north of Sportsmens Bowl Road Wednesday morning, with the road still completely washed out near Highway 97. Dustin Godfrey/Western News

South Okanagan continues flood fight as water moves downhill

Sportsmens Bowl Road near Oliver is closed to drivers, receiving drainage from Willowbrook creeks

Rural Oliver’s local regional district politician has a dire warning for residents of the area, already affected by flooding.

“To be quite honest with you, if the culverts at Secrest (Road) fail, if that road base leaves, then we have a genuine disaster,” said Terry Schafer, Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen electoral area ‘C’ (rural Oliver) director.

“People would have to scramble to high ground.”

Related: South Okanagan residents battle flooding

This mailbox just off Highway 97 on Sportsmens Bowl Road almost became an island after the flooding ate away at the ground around it. Wednesday morning, a wall of sandbags, three bags high, protects that space, but was close to overflowing.
Dustin Godfrey/Western News
This mailbox just off Highway 97 on Sportsmens Bowl Road almost became an island after the flooding ate away at the ground around it. Wednesday morning, a wall of sandbags, three bags high, protects that space, but was close to overflowing.

Dustin Godfrey/Western News

Schafer said he did not know the likelihood of that happening at this point, but many locals have noted that flooding in the area has only just begun. All of the flooding through Willowbrook, up the hill from Sportsmens Bowl Road, where the flooding is currently most drastic, is only from recent precipitation.

The spring freshet, the melting of snowpack in the mountains, has yet to come, and that is something local and provincial governments have been eyeing carefully, hoping to avoid a repeat of last year’s flooding.

But in Willowbrook, a second road has already been removed to improve the flow of Kearns Creek through the community, which in turn has sent more water downhill, faster. That, along with water from Victoria Creek, is culminating on Sportsmens Bowl Road, where 16 homes were issued evacuation alerts Tuesday evening.

Related: 16 homes on evacuation alert in rural Oliver flooding

The flow has eased somewhat in Willowbrook — a road that was completely washed out two weeks ago is now dry, though downstream from that, as mentioned, two roads have now been removed to allow more water flow.

But along Victoria Creek, local resident Gloria Luypen said she has been facing major flooding in the area, fighting flooding on her own property while neighbours do the same.

“Our neighbour’s is totally underwater, the septic fields, so by releasing a trench and putting it into the creek, it’s helped relieve some from him, but it’s still flowing steady, there’s still lots of water up there,” Luypen said.

Related: Time to prepare for flooding is now

“We’ve been doing it ourselves. The RDOS sent us sandbags and sand to help, and that’s about all the help we’ve gotten.”

Where Luypen said she has gotten a fair bit of help is the community, which has rallied to help with much of the labour. As well, Schafer noted one man had been using his tractor to collect garbage from some of the community members and drop it off at an accessible spot for collection.

“The community has been so supportive. We’ve had a four-year-old — he’s my hero, he came out Sunday. We gave him a little shovel and he filled sandbags right along with the rest of us,” Luypen said. “None of the kids that helped us whined, complained, anything. They just worked until they got tired and took a little break and just kept going and helping us out, and it was awesome.”

Related: Naramata woman narrowly dodges landslide

An aerial shot from up Secrest Hill Road of the creek that has flooded Sportsmens Bowl Road near Highway 97, pouring into the area from Victoria Creek and Kearns Creek up the hill in Willowbrook.
Dustin Godfrey/Western News
An aerial shot from up Secrest Hill Road of the creek that has flooded Sportsmens Bowl Road near Highway 97, pouring into the area from Victoria Creek and Kearns Creek up the hill in Willowbrook.

Dustin Godfrey/Western News

Lance Soare runs an excavating company, and when the flooding threatened a relative’s property in the line of the water on Sportsmens Bowl Road, he said he bumped a few jobs to work on that property while its owners are away on holidays.

Soare said there was once a creek running through the area, but it was shifted over the years as the area was developed with houses and farms. But Soare said it can be hard to fight the will of Mother Nature, and now with the flooding in place, that old creek bed is trying to break free again.

“It’s starting to come up down in the lower area, here, so we’re trying to keep the basement from flooding,” he said. “We’re going to try and trench it out to the old culvert back there (at Highway 97).”

Related: Risk from dam in Willowbrook area

Soare said he would likely be keeping an eye on the property for a while, with the flooding and high waters at “just the beginning,” as the temperatures rise and the freshet begins.

“How bad will it get, no one knows,” he said. “All we can do is be (duly) diligent and hopefully stop it or slow it down or whatever until the runoff’s done.”

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Dustin Godfrey | Reporter

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Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen director for rural Oliver Terry Schafer and local resident Gloria Luypen speak with Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure staff, who was in the area observing the flooding. Dustin Godfrey/Western News

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