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Support denied for debris flow mitigation options proposed for Sicamous mobile park

Columbia Shuswap Regional District hopes to implement early warning system by April 1
Areas of high intensity burns that occurred in the Wiseman Creek watershed over the summer are where a debris flow is likely to begin. (BGC Engineering photo)

Though it’s likely a debris flow of some magnitude will impact a Sicamous mobile home park over the next two years, the province has been reluctant to support proposed mitigation options.

According to a Jan. 26 post-wildfire debris flow option analysis report from BGC Engineering, a company that’s been working in the Wiseman Creek watershed for nine years, there’s a 68 per cent chance a debris flow could impact mobile homes at the Sicamous Creek Mobile Home Park.

There’s a 75 per cent chance a small debris flow will occur at Wiseman Creek in the next two years.

In the same place and time period, there’s a 100 per cent chance a debris flood will occur and a 20 per cent chance it would impact mobile homes. There’s also a four per cent chance of a large debris flow that would impact mobile homes occuring in the next 50 years.

According to BGC’s report, debris flows have higher sediment concentrations than debris floods and are typically faster, with higher impact forces.

“They are particularly threatening to life and properties due to these characteristics,” reads the report.

As a result of the debris flow risk, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) reviewed six disaster mitigation options prepared by BGC — none of which were a perfect solution, according to CSRD protective services team leader Derek Sutherland.

BGC recommended installing a debris flow warning system regardless of any other mitigation options chosen, though at present it appears an early warning system is all that will implemented.

BGC’s fifth option, creating a deflection berm and debris basin, was the one it most recommended. The company stated it “can retain the largest debris-flow volumes and thus be most efficient in reducing life loss and property risks on the Wiseman Creek fan.”

However, it would cost $3.2 million and only really be required for about two or three years, said Sutherland, adding Emergency Management BC said it wouldn’t fund that sort of project. BGC’s option seven, the creation of a debris basin, would cost $1.4 million. It wouldn’t be as effective as option five and not be funded for the same reasons, said Sutherland.

The CSRD also applied for funding to look at the feasibility of moving mobile homes out of harms way, but that funding request was denied.

Sicamous Mayor Terry Rysz said he’s thankful for Sutherland, as well as Cathy Semchuk of the Shuswap Emergency Program, applying for the grant funding. He said as mayor his first priority is the safety of Sicamous residents, so he “of course” wasn’t happy with Emergency Management BC not funding the berm or basin options.

However, he has been very happy with the way Sutherland, Semchuk and Sicamous Fire Chief Brett Ogino have been communicating with him and the residents of Sicamous Creek Mobile Home Park. He said everyone knows what’s going on with the potential risks.

A funding request has been submitted to Emergency Management BC for the early warning system and Sutherland said the CSRD is hoping for a positive response very soon. The CSRD is treating April 1 as the start of “landslide season” and is working to have the warning system in place by that date, said Sutherland.

“What will happen is… if there is a forecasted rain event that is likely to trigger a landslide… the emergency managers can make a decision on whether an evacuation needs to be ordered or not,” said Sutherland.

Read more: Planned salvage logging near Sicamous prompts look at debris flow risk

Read more: Former Salmon Arm engineer says abandoned logging road contributed to fatal B.C. landslide

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