Flood assessment sought

City: Issue to return to council in conjunction with highways plans.

Salmon Arm engineer Calvin Van Buskirk is not prepared to let the issue of flooding be.

Van Buskirk would like to have flooding issues addressed before the Trans-Canada Highway is upgraded, not after.

“I am becoming increasingly frustrated with the city’s apparent lack of flood concern even though most of southwest Salmon Arm would be extensively damaged during a serious flood…” he wrote.

“I have lost sleep over this issue of Salmon River flooding for well over 18 months and truly feel like I am watching a ship slowly sinking and the people on-board are more interested in where the gift shop is than patching the hole.”

Last week he forwarded Mayor Nancy Cooper and city council information about a seminar in Vancouver Friday being put on by the BC Real Estate Association. It’s entitled, “Planning to Avoid Disaster – Floodplain Maps Stakeholder Workshop.”

An excerpt from the real estate association workshop flyer states:

“Floodplain maps and other technical studies form the foundation upon which many decisions are made about how and where communities grow. If the basis for decision-making is unreliable, then the ability of decision-makers to effectively manage flood risks is limited.”

Van Buskirk said he forwarded the information to emphasize that other jurisdictions around the province have acknowledged the outdated nature of flood plain mapping and the need to look seriously at the possibility of devastating floods.

During 2012 budget deliberations, in a 4-3 vote, with Cooper and Couns. Denise Reimer and Ken Jamieson voting in favour, city council turned down a proposal to put $15,000 toward a flood hazard assessment.

Cooper explained the vote to the Observer, noting that in the most recent version of the city’s official community plan, which is based in part on community input, a flood plain assessment was designated as a midterm project. Short-term projects were the SHIM (Sensitive Habit and Inventory Mapping) and SEI (Sensitive Ecosystem Inventory).

“They’re really wanting to stick to the plan…,” Cooper said. “We have to respect the will of council, even if we disagree.”

Regarding the planned highway four-laning, Cooper said council has been pushing hard for replacement of the Salmon River Bridge. She said while she realizes flooding is a local government responsibility, she thinks the highways ministry would not build a highway that wouldn’t be safe, nor would it fail to consult with the city.

“I’m sure they would say, ‘hey, this is going to flood,’ if that was their feeling. They wouldn’t be shy in telling us what they thought.”

Cooper said the issue of floodplain mapping would be coming up at the March 11 meeting of council, at which time she would like to hear the discussion of the rest of council and then make comment.


Salmon Arm Observer