The Cariboo Regional District is raising concerns about the upcoming spring freshet and the effects it will have on the area’s rural roads, lands and infrastructure.
CRD directors agreed at their board meeting Feb. 11 to seek a joint meeting with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and local MLAs to discuss the issue, noting the region continues to experience overflowing creeks and culverts as well as major potholes and landslides this winter.
“This is just the beginning. I’m really kind of worried about what’s going to happen come spring,” 100 Mile House Mayor Mitch Campsall said. “Forget about the creeks alone, it’s just the amount of water in the ground and once the freshet comes out and starts rolling down our hills, we’re going to have a nightmare. We have a real disaster coming up. I don’t think we understand how bad this is going to be.”
Campsall’s comments followed a presentation to the board by Cariboo North MLA Coralee Oakes and Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Lorne Doerkson, who spoke about the substantial damage wrought by last year’s spring freshet on the area’s rural roads as well as ongoing high water across the region. The number of damaged road repairs in the region last year surpassed $12 million.
CRD Chair Margo Wagner, director for Canim Lake-Forest Grove, agreed the water levels this winter are a “big concern.” Bridge Creek, which runs through the South Cariboo is still flowing freely this year despite an extreme cold last week that saw temperatures dip to -38C in the 100 Mile House area.
A landslide also recently occurred on Canim-Hendrix Road, bringing down big trees. “It’ll move again in the spring,” Wagner said. “There’s just no reason for it doing that except for the high water.”
Wagner, along with Campsall and Canim Lake Chief Helen Henderson, sent a letter in January to MoTI and the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations regarding the freshet and land stability issues. The letter noted how CRD’s Emergency Operations Centre has continued to operate since last spring.
Bridge Creek, which runs through 100 Mile House, is experiencing unprecedented water levels this year.
“My electoral area is greatly affected by Bridge Creek, it’s at freshet levels now,” Wagner said, noting it has risen two feet from where it was two weeks ago. “It’s the middle of winter. Where is this coming from? It’s ridiculous.”
The letter asks that the ministries “dedicate the required resources in leadership positions, to fully participate in pre-planning efforts to ensure we are all ready to respond,” noting the entire CRD is at risk from rising waters.
Director Maureen LeBourdais said residents are pumping out their basements in Horsefly while there are dams on the Likely Road. In Lac Hache, meanwhile, director Al Richmond said a lot of high-value homes across the region will likely be in jeopardy this spring.
“We need that meeting with the ministry to see if there’s anything they can do to alleviate or move this water quicker, we need to do something proactive rather than reactive,” Richmond said. “We need to see if anything can be done to try and mitigate the situation.”
Oakes also urged the Board to write a letter to MoTI asking for a comprehensive transportation study of the region. She noted the ministry often works in silos, dealing with one road at a time rather than looking at how all the rural roads and highways are interconnected and act as back-ups for one another.
Last year, almost every single road from Williams Lake to Quesnel was compromised as a result of the spring freshet, she said.
A transportation study would be “critically important,” she said, noting that when roads are lost, they aren’t maintained. She and Doerkson, along with Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart, have a call-in session with the region’s new MoTI representative this week to talk about the “spring freshet and the roads and ensure public safety is top of mind.”
Campsall maintains the roads in the Cariboo have been “neglected” by the ministry for the past 15 to 20 years. The top of Highway 97 is like concrete and even new roads are deteriorating, he said, while culverts are also overloaded and not maintained. “That’s something we really need to push hard” at the meeting.
“Our roads are totally being destroyed by this winter. It’s hot, cold, hot, cold,” Campsall said. “It’s not just the South Cariboo.”
Doerkson, who nearly had an accident at 130 Mile the other day when he hit a large pothole, said a letter from the CRD would be helpful to ensure infrastructure is protected.
“I, like (Campsall), are driving these roads a lot,” Doerkson said. “We don’t even know what we’re up against here once the snow and ice disappear. There’s a lot of damage out there. It’s not just water. It’s our roads, our forest service roads, our access points. There are a few things happening but I think a united front would be really good.”
John MacLean, CAO for the regional district, said the CRD plans to invite B.C.’s Water Stewardship division, Rivers Forecast Centre and the Emergency Management B.C. to a committee of the whole meeting on March 4.