The combined forces of the federal government, the province and three local governments have expended $86,000 to clear up the logjam that's led to flooding in Mount Currie.
For months now, the Mount Currie Band of the Lil'wat Nation has grappled with issues related to flooding in their community. Since the end of May, residents have been subject to high waters that have resulted in evacuations of eight people and the flooding of Highway 99 on at least four occasions.
On Thursday last week the band, along with local governments and agencies of the federal and provincial governments, called in a helicopter to clear logs out of the river that had diverted its flow right into the community. The operation was expected to continue Friday and the total cost of the work was estimated at $86,000.
The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, the Pemberton Valley Dyking District (PVDD) and the Mount Currie Band are expected to pick up 20 per cent of the cost, about $16,800, with the regional district picking up about $10,000 of that cost. The provincial and federal governments are splitting the remaining 80 per cent between them.
The money came after a brief back-and-forth with the provincial government over who's supposed to take charge of river management.
Susie Gimse, director for Electoral Area C on the SLRD, said at a July 26 meeting that regional district staff approached the provincial government after flooding began and asked whether responsibility for river management fell to the province or local governments.
Officials with the Ministry of Environment told staff that it was a local government responsibility, giving the regional district the impression that it was directly responsible for lifting the logs out of the Birkenhead River. Gimse said it was time to clarify with the provincial government what its role is vis a vis river management. They have, however, since worked together to stop the flooding.
A ministry spokesman told Pique that flood forecasting, river modeling and technical expertise fall under the purview of the provincial government but in a flooding emergency it shares responsibilities with local governments, First Nation governments and communities, as well as the federal government.
"Some of this river management stuff is a grey area," said SLRD Administrator Paul Edgington. "The province recognized the impact of the logjam and as a first step towards working with us and other agencies towards seeking a longer-term resolution.
"Our first step was that the federal and provincial governments came forward with a substantial amount of money. I also credit the Ministry of Transportation and Highways, which has been working with the Lil'wat to improve ditching."
A heavy snowpack this year has been identified as one cause of the flooding. Another is believed to reach back about 15 years, when logs started piling up in the Birkenhead. A major flood in 2003 made the issue worse, knocking more trees into the river and eroding its banks.
Edgington himself was kayaking up near Gates Lake last week and on the way back discovered several areas with "large woody debris," or trees, in the river. He said many of the trees entered the channel in 2003 and over time they've stockpiled near the Mount Currie reserve.
The number of logs had grown so much that the Birkenhead River cut a path across Mount Currie's pole yard and right into a resident's house.
Asked why the logs hadn't been cleaned up before, Edgington responded, "I don't know, I just don't know."
Though the logs have been lifted, there remain issues related to stockpiling of gravel deposits. Frank Andrew, director of public works for the Mount Currie Band, said gravel bars are still diverting the river's flow and the band is waiting on a longer-term solution.