Homeowners in the Lillooet Lake Estates (LLE) and Heather Jean Properties area — located about 21 kilometres east of Pemberton — are hoping for some financial assistance to solve a very big problem.
The area has been subjected to debris flows in the past (most recently in 2013 and 2010), and construction of a debris flow mitigation structure could cost up to $8 million.
"It's a real threat," said LLE president Gary Young. "We have a real solution in mind, and we just need funding assistance to make it happen."
The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) board of directors recently agreed to own and maintain the potential structure — and provide loan financing of up to $8 million for its construction — if at least 75 per cent of LLE shareholders approve the financing.
But with just 152 shareholders at LLE and another 18 at the surrounding Heather Jean Properties, that price tag would be tough to swallow.
"I think everyone wants to see the mitigation project go forward, the question is at what cost?" Young said, adding that homeowners in the area would like other levels of government to pay for a substantial portion.
"Our whole development was approved by the province and the SLRD to create it. They did that under what was, at that point, pretty good advice, which was that we were living in a relatively safe zone," he said.
"The geotech wrote a report saying that. However, that was technology and knowledge of 1975, not knowledge of today, so it turns out that we aren't safe, but it's not anything that our residents have done to cause this problem. This is coming from Crown land."
Reached for comment by email, a provincial ministry of forests spokesperson said: "Ministry staff advise that it was the regional district and not the province that approved the building of homes in that area. The ministry is not looking at providing funding."
SLRD chair Jack Crompton said the LLE shareholders have much to decide before project moves to design and construction.
"The resolutions made by the board were very much to say if LLE goes down the path of investing in a debris flow structure the regional district will be a supportive partner," Crompton said. "We're committed to working with the residents."
There is no set timeline for LLE shareholders to make a decision on the loan, but Young said they would likely hold a meeting in the fall to discuss the next course of action.
In the meantime, homeowners are applying for federal and provincial grants to help fund the solution.
"I think a lot of people from the outside would look at it and say 'well why don't you just move?'" Young said.
"Well, of course the reality is that people have invested their life savings in their homes, and in many cases they're retired persons, and their homes have substantially lost value, if they have any value, because who's going to buy into a high risk area?
"We live in a fabulous place, but at the same time we live under this constant threat."