Windermere Creek flood declared local emergency

Month of sediment build-up near Shadybrook Resort puts at least eight campsites, six homes at risk.

  • Aug. 9, 2011 4:00 p.m.

Due to a sediment build up

Close to a month ago, residents and Shadybrook Resort and Marina owner Mike Dubois noticed that Windermere Creek, which runs through the site into Lake Windermere, was a bit higher than normal.

It didn’t take long for the water to run off and flood some sections of the campground.

“It wasn’t a dramatic thing,” said Dubois. “It just got gradually worse over a month. It started as a little problem that got a lot worse.”

On August 5, the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) released a Declaration of a State of Local Emergency about the campground flooding.

The declaration allows for a quicker response to the situation, so repairs can be made and action taken to ensure persons and property in the site are protected for the sake of their health, safety, welfare, and to limit further damage.

The flood was caused by a sediment deposit build up, which caused the water to rise and therefore top and spill over its natural and man-made barriers. The sediment build-up was caused by a spring landslide, which plugged up the creek.

Prior to the RDEK’s involvement, Dubois had been working to fix and put a stopper on the overflow, while seeking federal and provincial government assistance.

“The water just kept coming out of the creek, spilling a little more each day,” he explained. “Initially I didn’t think it would have become this big of a problem, and I sandbagged the side to prevent more spilling.”

Over the course of a month, Dubois estimates the creek’s waters rose anywhere from three to five feet.

The spilling occurred on both sides of the creek. On one side, where Dubois makes his residence, four sites became unusable due to flooding, while surrounding areas, though negatively affected by the water, are still usable.

On the other side of the creek two trailers had to be pulled due to the flooding.

According to the RDEK’s emergency declaration, approximately eight semi-permanent seasonal sites and three permanent outbuildings in the campground are at risk, and six homes and semi-permanent structures are at risk on Rowan Street.

“I was working with the governments for a solution for a number of weeks,” said Dubois.

“Initially I was talking to the federal and provincial government, though. I didn’t know that the local government could do anything or have the authority to solve the situation.”

Through the Emergency Program Act, the RDEK has the authority to deal with the flood using any actions “considered necessary for the situation to prevent and alleviate the effects of the emergency.”

That could include using any land or property on the campground necessary to help with the situation, and authorizing or requiring people to render assistance to the situation (if the person is qualified to do so). It also gives the district the authority to evacuate camp residents and other persons, pets, and so forth in designated areas if those persons may be affected by the flooding, and make arrangements for their care.

During the state of local emergency, the RDEK can also authorize the entry into any building or on any land without warrant, if they are in the act of implementing the emergency plan, and construct works considered by local authority to be necessary or appropriate to the situation. It can also order and cause the demolition or removal of any trees, structures or crops if their removal will help alleviate the flooding.

In the meantime, Dubois is continuing to work to halt the flood as best he can, adding more sandbags and gravel to some areas to break up the water’s flow.

A channel was also dug to help divert some of the spilling water around residential sites on the campground.

“I’m hoping over the next few days that the Regional District will come up with a solution,” said Dubois. “Right now this is a band-aid on a bigger problem. But I’m really happy with the Regional District, they acted really fast in response to this.”

Martin Caldwell, the RDEK’s deputy emergency program co-ordinator, said repair work has already begun and will continue this week and the next.

“We’re going to prevent and limit damage to the two properties subject to flooding, the Shadybrook Campground and another close, private property,” said Caldwell.

“We’ll be working with the Ministry of Environment to create a longer-term plan to clean up the site as well. We’ll be getting shareholders, community and property owner discussions and feedback, and more, and working with the Ministry to also ensure that the surrounding habitat is protected and restored so it is viable in the future and to avoid future flooding.”

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