Konrad Pimiskern looks around his flooded basement and wonders where the water is from and who will pay for the damage it caused to his home.
The Black Mountain area resident has been pumping water out of his house for a month, as have several of his Lynrick Road neighbours in the Mountainview subdivision.
“It was the weekend of March 17-18, I got call from my neighbour up the hill that he was having flooding problems, and then my neighbour next door had flooding problems so we looked at our backyard and could see water running along the orchard that borders our properties,” recalled Pimiskern.
“There was still some snow on the ground at that point but you could see water bubbling up everywhere.”
Pimiskern decided to take preventative measures by digging a trench to divert any water from reaching his house.
“At a certain point the trench became overwhelmed by the water saturation. Then the water volume just exploded and we kept trying to dig more trenches but the water began to flow into our basement through the side door of the house. We had to bring in pumps to divert the water because we couldn’t keep up with it.”
He figures without the pumps, his basement would easily be flooded to the ceiling by now—and the water keeps coming.
“It was surface water to begin with but the ground around us was so saturated, our backyard was like a giant sponge. We would dig down five or six feet and it was just saturated everywhere.”
Flooding has been a common issue in the Black Mountain area on both sides of Highway 33 this spring. Besides Lynrick Road, residents along Verde Vista Road, which borders the development, had sandbags along their driveways to divert runoff away from their street, while others along Sunrise Road also report apparent groundwater property flood damage.
Kirschner Mountain development proponent Allan Kirschner said they have taken steps, with drainage collection ditches and dugouts, to catch excessive runoff this year, and his development will eventually have a storm drain system in place to divert surface runoff water away to Gopher Creek at the base of the mountain.
“We have taken steps to help people who have had water issues bordering on our property, but nobody takes responsibility for groundwater flow, including the province,” Kirschner said. “Groundwater saturation has been an issue all over the city this year.”
“I know about the Lynrick Road situation but that is result of water coming from the orchard next to them as their homes are situated at a natural low point where the water has collected.”
Pimiskern and his neighbours have banded together to demand answers and accountability for the cost of repairing the damage to their properties.
“Right now our homes are worth zero until this can be fixed. I know one neighbour who was planning to sell her home and had to take it off the market because of this,” Pimiskern said.
City wants to facilitate solution
A group of the residents gathered last Friday at Pimiskern’s home to grill city engineer James Kay about how the city can help them and who should be held responsible for the damages.
He said the ultimate resolution for disputes between private property owners is civil litigation in the courts. Regarding water run off, he said the city’s responsibility pertains to surface water only and not groundwater.
Kay noted that flooding issues have popped up across the city this year in areas not seen before and where no new development has taken place. He said city policy is that private property owners are responsible for protecting their properties form possible groundwater damage.
Mountainview residents have seen major flooding before, dating back to a severe rainstorm in 2008 that led to a series of catchment ditches developed to collect excessive runoff.
Oddly, the current water flow in those ditches doesn’t currently reflect the level of water flowing into people’s basements, raising the question of where the water is originating from and what path it is following underground.
Kay said the city is looking to retain a hydro geologist consultant to better ascertain how the groundwater flow is affecting the flooding, but some residents want a state of emergency declared to facilitate a quicker response such as was done to address Lower Glenrosa Road flooding issues in West Kelowna.
Kay also plans to meet with orchardist Collin McMeekan, whose property borders the residential properties of Pimiskern and other flood victims. He wants to discuss digging a berm to divert surface and groundwater, but acknowledges it’s complicated because such a plan would impact both McMeekan’s trees and irrigation system.
City not ready for state of emergency declaration
Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran said the state of emergency option has not yet come forward as a recommendation from city staff.
“At this point I’m not even clear we can do that,” Basran said. “Because this issue is between private property owners at this point, our role is to be a facilitator to find a solution.
“It is awful what these residents are going through so we are trying to help as much as we can.”
Basran had planned to meet today with residents at Pimiskern’s home to hear out their concerns.
“I can appreciate people pointing their frustration at the Kirschner development, but we are also seeing high groundwater levels across the city that we have never seen before,” he said.
“The bottom line is this is a tough situation and the city wants to help people affected as best we can.”
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