Windermere Creek began running directly through Shadybrook Resort in Windermere on Saturday (June 20) morning, after rising 10 inches in just 48 hours and spilling over the top of both natural and man-made barriers due to a buildup of gravel and sediment.
After notifying provincial government officials, owner Mike DuBois was awaiting an official declaration of a local state of emergency as of press deadline.
“My business has been devastated with immeasurable damage,” DuBois said. “Everyone knew it was coming for a year, but environmental rules won’t let me do much to protect my property.”
The creek first burst through its boundaries in August of last year after a spring landslide was suspected of depositing a large buildup of sediment, which diverted the creek into a new channel about 2 kilometres upstream. According to DuBois, recently a large pond had begun to form on the east side of Highway 93/95 at the culvert that channels water beneath the highway. Government highway workers had recently been seen excavating the gravel blocking the culvert, leading DuBois to believe the gravel was then washed further downstream, settling on the creek bed. He estimates there is at least 3 metres of gravel currently at the bottom of the creek, which in turn has raised water levels to the point where the creek has overrun its barriers.
“The channel of Windermere Creek changed course about 2 km upstream… and it’s doing severe erosion in the new channel and down cutting, and that started a couple of years ago, and got really severe last spring,” DuBois said. “So it’s transporting enormous quantities of gravel downstream and depositing the gravel as soon as the water slows down near the lake.”
DuBois said he estimates about 30 RV sites have now been affected, along with private properties on the opposite side of the creek. One such property owner, Larry Lee of Calgary, said he guesses there is at least double the amount of gravel in the creek bed from last year, which would explain why the flooding is so much more severe this time around.
“It’s really interesting what Mother Nature can do, and there’s no stopping Mother Nature,” Lee said. “But in this case, I think it’s probably private landowners upstream that are assisting Mother Nature in creating problems downstream… the gravel must be coming from somewhere.”
DuBois has been forced to shut down the resort’s sewer system and much of its electrical systems, and has also been providing refunds to customers who have been forced to leave due to the flood waters. His main frustration, aside from the obvious damage to his business, is that despite the same problem occurring last year, the provincial government has not taken any steps to prevent a flood from happening again.
“Everybody involved knew it was going to happen again this year,” DuBois said. “So the B.C. government has had a year’s notice and has specifically chosen not to do anything to solve the problem… their money would be better spent on prevention as opposed to emergency cleanup.”
Once a state of emergency is declared, DuBois will be able to enter the creek with an excavator to begin to remove the gravel buildup. However, this is only a short-term solution, as without pushing the creek back to its historical channel, the same problem is likely to occur each year.
“This flooding will happen exactly the same a year from now unless the province commits the resources and issues the permits to put the channel upstream back into its natural course,” DuBois said. “The latest discussions I’ve had with them, indicates that they are willing to issue those permits, but will not contribute a single dollar to the solution. They are expecting landowners and stakeholders of Windermere Creek to foot the entire bill.”
DuBois had been monitoring the creek closely and building up the walls on his side for the past couple months, however once the creek reached a certain height there was nothing that could be done. As the creek is flowing almost entirely through the resort and into the lake, the original channel that brought the creek into Lake WIndermere has now gone completely dry. This presents further water quality issues for the Windermere community aside from the current boil water notice, as the large quantity of sediment being washed into the lake is less than a kilometre away from the Windermere water intake.
“Everyone with a water license on Windermere Creek is impacted too, because their out-take channels have been clouded with sediment,” DuBois said. “The fix is to put the creek back into its natural and historical channel.”
While DuBois has reached out to all levels of government and some local organizations for the estimated $25,000 to divert the creek back to its natural course, he’s also asking individuals to consider contributing, especially anyone who drinks Windermere water.