Even as darkness set on the community, residents rallied to mitigate the potential for further damage caused by flooding in the Willowbrook community. Not pictured, community member Jim Stanley operates some small equipment to loosen up some final layers of sand to be loaded into sandbags. Dustin Godfrey/Western News

Willowbrook resident says province ignored proactive measures

Jim Stanley says locals called for widened culverts for 10 months to improve water flow to no avail

A Willowbrook resident lamented what he sees as inaction from the province, as the community prepared to pull an all-nighter this week to fortify sandbag barriers.

The community was out in full-force Monday evening, preparing for what would be declared a state of local emergency the next day. A controlled spill at a nearby dam threatened what was already an emergent flooding situation at the small farming community outside Oliver.

But that flood could have been mitigated, or even avoided, according to Jim Stanley, a resident whose property was adjacent to the line of the water at the time.

Related: Willowbrook community rallies in state of local emergency

“I have water issues if the saturation gets to the point where the bowl gets full,” Stanley said. “Because it comes in from underground, through my basement.”

Stanley’s basement flooded last May as well, and he said it didn’t dry out until August.

But beyond that, part of what worried Stanley was if part of the barriers the community was fortifying Monday night were breached.

“If it migrates, this property right here with an orchard in the back of it … it’s a low section, but that low section carries all the way around into the back of my yard,” Stanley said. “That’s what we’re trying to stop is (water) migrating down there to get the whole thing flooded.”

Related: Kearns Creek dam near Willowbrook reaches capacity

The line of sandbags being fortified was a key part of the strategy, Stanley said, to mitigating the situation as a whole.

“We’re trying to get the water to flow through and drain the bowl,” he said.

“These culverts are obviously too small,” he added, pointing to a culvert beneath a road with a river of water flowing over it.

It’s one of a number of culverts flowing through the community — all of them were well over capacity, with more water flowing over the roads than through the small tubes below the roads.

And that’s the problem Stanley said could have been averted.

Related: Situation improving in Willowbrook

“We’ve been fighting for 10 months to try and get the government to deal with these culverts, because we said they’re too small. And they said, ‘no, it was ample, it was flowing beautifully,’” Stanley said.

“Coupled with too small of culverts, the government (is) not maintaining the inlet and outlet ports — you know, you have the little sediment pond you dug out so when stuff comes down, it settles in, not in the culvert.”

But that hasn’t been happening, and now the sediment is making small culverts even smaller, Stanley said.

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said in a brief statement it commissioned a hydrologist to review and report on the issue specifically at the Kearns Creek crossing in Willowbrook.

“The hydrologist report has just recently been received by the ministry. Recommendations from this report will be considered for implementation. The ministry and our maintenance contractors are monitoring the site, and are prepared to respond and manage as may be required.”

But that doesn’t exactly help the community in Willowbrook this week.

“It’s not rocket science,” he said. “Here we are, now, in a reactive state, not in a proactive state. We should have been dealing with this back in September. We started this (advocating) in June and July of last year, and here we are now.”

While emergency financial help was available from the B.C. government for those without insurance, Stanley’s insurance did cover last year’s flooding.

“I’m probably going to be in the middle of it in a couple of months, where I’m underwater, and I just finished having my basement rebuilt on my insurance claim, and I’m going to go through it all again,” he said.

“Now my insurance policy is definitely not going to renew in the same way. I’ve got insurance, but I’ve got to pay a $5,000 deductible, and I’ve got a cap of $30,000 in replacement costs. Well, that gets eaten up pretty fast when you start dealing with 1,600 sq. ft. of flooring and painting and walls.”

And every time he makes a claim in the same vein, the deductible and premiums go up until they just won’t cover it. He said he might just wind up with a rancher if the flood season keeps up.

“There’s no sense in trying to make a basement. But it’s going to create a huge value loss in my home, all because of government officials not making a stand to say ‘we need some help last year,’” Stanley said.

“That’s what I’m getting at is that could have been prevented. All of this could be prevented.”

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Dustin Godfrey | Reporter

@dustinrgodfrey

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