Several properties in the area lost land and structures to the river in last fall’s high water event (Michael Wigle photo)

Major flood mitigation work underway on Highway 20

Certain areas were hit particularly hard with the heavy rainfall last October

While the heavy rainfall last October didn’t impact most of the Valley, certain areas were hit particularly hard. The last week of October 2017 saw a significant amount of rainfall in a short period, with 30 to 60 mm falling in less than 24 hours.

This resulted in several areas suffering property damage and, in some cases, property loss. Certain areas in Firvale, Saloompt and homes along Highway 20 near Jourdenais Road suffered greatly. Some structures were lost to the river and property was eroded by high water.

“Rip rapping along the river is currently underway on Highway 20 at Jourdenais Road. This will reinforce and stabilize the riverbank, and protect the highway from erosion,” said Danielle Pope, Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure Media Relations. “The highway is approximately eight to nine metres from the river, and high water/freshet will happen shortly, so it is important to do this work now. The Bella Coola River has already eroded properties in close proximity to the highway in the Hammer Road and Highway 20 vicinity.”

Pope said that the work is intended to redirect the river away from the highway in hopes of preventing further erosion and is expected to take just over a month.

It’s a large project; about 150 metres long and several metres high. There has been lots of action with quarry blasting in Hagensborg and rock trucks hauling material all day long.

“Work began on February 19 and is anticipated to finish by the end of March. There are four trucks hauling rip rap to the site and one excavator placing the rock. Armouring work will also be taking place at Hammer Road to redirect the river current away from the road infrastructure, and work at this location is anticipated to start in mid-March and be completed by March 31,” Pope said. “The work is being delivered through a combination of contractors, local hired equipment and day labour.”

Flooding is a constant concern for a large number of residents living in the Valley, especially those in vulnerable areas. The Ministry of Transportation will undertake work to protect highways and other roads from flooding, but that is where their responsibility ends.

Additional work involving diking, dredging, removal of log jams, creating groynes or any other activity within the river is much harder to negotiate and carry out, and involves several overlapping ministries and consultations with many different groups. Just some of the impacts to consider include fish habitat, effects on neighbouring properties, and First Nations traditional uses.

In recognition of increasing disaster risks and costs, the announcement of the new National Disaster Mitigation Program (NDMP) in 2015 split Mitigation Funding is now 50/50 between provincial and federal governments, alleviating much of the burden from local taxpayers.

The Central Coast Regional District submitted an application for a Bella Coola Valley Flood LiDAR survey and orthoimagery to UBCM’s Community Emergency Preparedness Fund and this was approved. A “stream 1” application for Bella Coola River and tributaries was submmited to NDMP and was approved at the provincial level, it is now awaiting approval at the federal level.

Announcements of successful recipients for the NDMP program are expected to be released in spring of 2018.

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