Board approves urgent action plan for Newsome Creek

Friday, January 11, 2019

There's simply no time to wait.

That's the message from the CSRD Board of Directors as they voted to approve spending $25,000 for a remediation assessment and work plan to address the safety issues of residences located along the banks of Newsome Creek in Sorrento.

Directors also voted unanimously to apply for federal and provincial funding to pay for the work needed to address the safety, erosion and ravine slope stability issues along the creek at Caen Road.

Both the 2017 and 2018 spring freshets caused significant erosion to the banks in the reaches of the creek below the Trans-Canada Highway in Sorrento, affecting several properties along Caen Road. Stream bank undercutting and slope failures in 2018 resulted in 11 properties needing to be placed on Evacuation Alert.

Further stream bank erosion continues to be very likely, especially in spring 2019 when higher stream flows are anticipated.

"The issue here is the urgency of the scenario," says Electoral Area C Director Paul Demenok. "We've got homes, properties, businesses and lives at risk here."

The $25,000 CSRD contribution for the assessment and work plan will be matched by funds from Emergency Management BC.

This CSRD contribution does not cover the costs of any of the actual remediation work, which will exceed the initial $25,000 cost of the study. This is why the Board has also given direction for the CSRD to seek grant funding from other levels of government to pay for any remediation projects in the area.

The potential costs were of concern to Directors, as it is the CSRD's position that watercourses are a provincial area of responsibility and that it is the streamflow at Newsome Creek which is undermining the stability of the adjacent properties.

"This is terrifying for the folks that live along there… They live it every day," says Board Chair Rhona Martin. "But at this end of things, we need to know what we are stepping into. What precedent will this set to be in a position to be expected to take on things we may not be financially able to commit to?"

CSRD Chief Administrative Officer Charles Hamilton notes that due to the short time frame, the Board was asked to seek other funding options at the same time as the remediation plan is being developed.

He notes the CSRD has received information from the province that it needs to play the lead role in restoring the stream flows, with the assistance of other provincial emergency funding.

"While I do not agree with it being our responsibility, barring a legal challenge, it appears they are shifting the onus onto the CSRD to do something," Hamilton says.

Demenok notes it is becoming increasingly apparent that the issues with the creek is broader than just the residences along Caen Road, with the situation linking back to a wildfire in the area in 2009.

In response to the situation, residents of the area have formed the Newsome Creek Watershed Action Group and will be co-hosting a community meeting with the CSRD on Tuesday, January 22, 2019 at 6:30 PM at the Sorrento Memorial Hall. Federal and Provincial representatives have been invited and members of CSRD staff will also be in attendance.

For more information on the meeting, see www.newsomecreek.ca.

Photos by: Westrek Geotechnical Services Ltd.