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Squamish dike seepage requires expert analysis, says letter to council

Letter from engineer expresses concern that Squamish River dike could collapse during a flood



In a letter written to Squamish council, local engineer Frank Baumann has urged the District of Squamish to address possible seepage issues at the Eagle Run dyke on Government Road.

"I'm concerned about the possibility that a portion of the main Squamish River dike at the Eagle Run on Government Road in Brackendale could collapse during a flood due to a piping failure. I'd suggest that this matter needs to be addressed on a high priority by the district's emergency planning group," he writes in the letter.

In their meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 4 Squamish council passed a motion asking staff to ensure that Baumann's concern are addressed in a forthcoming report that council is expecting on dykes and that he be contacted and apprised of the response.

Baumann's letter, detailed and technical, makes an expansive case for the district to act on the issue, which Baumann has called the "weakest link" in the safety of the dyke.

As a geoscientist working with Magma Energy Corporation in Vancouver, Baumann has a long and varied experience dealing with natural disasters, but his definitive stance on the seepage issue on the dykes has another dimension.

He speaks as a witness, too.

In the 2003 flood, he and another local geoscientist, Pierre Friele, saw the water gushing out near one of the residences on the Eagle Run dyke. In the report they prepared for the district at that time they identified seepage as the priority issue to be dealt with.

Seepage, if unaddressed, can lead to piping, an advanced state of seepage. Water acts like a pipe as it removes the gravel while seeping through the dyke. This eats away at the dyke and finally it collapses.

Baumann is not the only one to direct attention at this issue. Two subsequent, district funded reports have made the case that seepage is an issue that needs to be addressed.

Recently, the district announced that it will spend $153,104 on dyke upgrades on the Squamish River, adding riprap on a 350-metre section of the dyke, upstream of Fisherman's Park. However, there was no word on whether any money would be earmarked to address seepage issues.

At the Jan. 4 council meeting, Mayor Greg Gardner said a comprehensive report on the dykes is forthcoming that would address all issues. Gardner did not specifically ask that the concerns raised by Baumann be addressed because he said the forthcoming report will be quite comprehensive.

"I have a concern about the recommendation because it's in fact all under way, the report is almost finalized. Is there a reason why we want to bring this possible diking issue?" he asked.

Councillor Bryan Raiser suggested that Gardner write a letter to Baumann. Councillor Corrine Lonsdale said she would like to see Baumann's concerns addressed and included in the report staff is preparing.

Gardner concurred and the motion was passed.



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