Only a few seats were empty in West Kelowna council chambers Tuesday as Hitchner and Jennens Roads residents and former residents told council they need to act quicker to avoid another McDougall Creek flooding disaster.
Three speakers explained the situation is urgent and should be funded by the district, regardless of whether they get financial help from the province.
“Money is being made available for other projects…council must find money for this continuing problem,” said Garth Allmand of nearby Jennens Road.
“I feel the residents should not be held ransom through political filibustering…council’s apparent lack of urgency is alarming.”
Former Hitchner Road resident Steve Bateman, who experienced two significant floods in the 1970s and 80s, agreed. He said council doesn’t appear to be lifting a finger to do anything to alleviate the problem—a comment Mayor Doug Findlater took exception to.
“We’ve done a lot more than lift a finger,” said Findlater.
“I’ve been in meetings with up to three ministers at one time, trying to pry money out of the provincial government.
“They really do have a responsibility…they provided money to Kelowna for exactly this kind of work.”
He added other “wrinkles” such as the fisheries window and the fact the creek runs along private property have made the situation difficult.
According to chief administrative officer Jason Johnson, district staff has outlined a four-phase approach to mitigate, restore and recover the creek.
The B.C. Ministry of Justice recently advised local governments that funding applications were being accepted for a new Flood Protection Program, which supports projects that aim to build permanent mitigative infrastructure over a one- or two-year period between April 1, 2014 and March 31, 2016.
Council unanimously voted to apply for the program Tuesday. The district will seek two-thirds funding to complete the works. The entire project is expected to cost $510,000; therefore, the district’s share would be $170,000.
In order to secure grant funding, additional land tenure will be required to complete the works through some properties downstream of Boucherie Road. This will require agreement from private property owners whose lands would be impacted by the remedial measures.
If West Kelowna’s application is successful, another flooding season could come and go before mitigation work would begin in April 2014.
Bateman indicated any delay is risky, and suggested Hitchner Road residents aren’t out of the woods yet for this flooding season.
“Some people may think that the flood problem is gone for this year, but most of the time the problem (comes) around May long weekend,” said Bateman.
On April 25, 2012 a dike along McDougall Creek was breached by high stream flow. The creek flow was redirected through an orchard and flooded four homes.