Residents hoping to get access the Williams Lake river valley all the way down to the Fraser River are going to have to wait, possibly until spring 2023.
During the city council meeting Tuesday, March 8, Jeff Bernardy, senior engineering technologist, said construction is still underway to repair the damaged caused by flooding in 2020.
While lots of progress has been made, Bernardy said there are some projects that are in still in the design phase for, including three bridges.
“However, we’ve learned from this past year that we can construct pretty well all winter. There’s a very good likelihood we will be able to go to tender this fall and hopefully be wrapped up and ready to roll for spring. No promises but that’s what we are working to right now.”
Mayor Walt Cobb asked if there is a possibility of opening up a portion of the trail system, however, Bernardy replied there is a limitation due to heavy construction traffic and there are always going to be vehicles moving back and forth.
“That said, we cannot rule out the possibility that we could open up a portion of it,” he added.
Every citizen in Williams Lake is wondering when they will be able to go into the river valley again, Coun. Sheila Boehm said.
“It’s a safety issue,” the city’s chief administrative officer Gary Muraca said. “We aren’t trying to close it down for convenience.”
Council unanimously approved amending the river valley flood remediation bridge one to 14 tender award of $2,115,872.50 to $2,132,772.50. Council also approved an increase in the amount of $86,749 to the river valley bridges S1 to S3 engineering budget of which the city’s share is $17,349 and $358,398 to the river valley bridges one through 14 engineering budget, of which the city’s share would be $71,679.
“Right now these increases we are talking about are primary related to permitting and compliance,” said Natalie Swift, manager of the river valley rehabilitation project. “We are now building that cost into other bridge budgets.”
Muraca noted since doing the original budgeting for the project, staff has realized there needs to be full-time coverage for monitoring for fisheries and environmental stewardship in the river valley while the construction is underway.
“That’s why you are seeing such a large increase in the environmental engineering costs. This is one of the items that you cannot foresee until water levels go down and you know what you are dealing with.”
He said they think the entire budget will stay within the $7,662,456 of which the province’s Disaster Financial Assistance program will pay 80 per cent of.
“It’s been a horrendous job and let’s hope it doesn’t happen again this year,” Cobb said of the flooding.