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 Posted in    |  on July 28th, 2017  |  by

Stopping future debris flow in Fairmont

After a flood of debris swept through Fairmont Hot Springs five years ago officials have been hard at work to ensure a similar incident never happens again.

The debris flow triggered a series of studies and steps to mitigate future disaster. The next phase of that work is scheduled for this fall.

The Fairmont Debris Flow Mitigation project is a response to a significant event in 2012 that forced the closure of the highway and Fairmont Hot Springs Resort, affecting multiple businesses and residences. There was a further event in 2013, both triggered by high water levels. Amazingly, no lives were lost in the slide, given that it went down a popular hiking area.

Following the slide, a geotechnical report was conducted which showed a large amount of debris above Fairmont in the Fairmont Creek area that could cause future problems.

In a town hall style meeting recently in Fairmont, the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) spoke on the matter to roughly 50 residents.

“In 2012 we had a geoscience hazard and risk assessment completed. The assessment indicated we have an unlimited amount of debris in the Fairmont creek watershed,” reported Kara Zandbergen, engineering technician at the RDEK. “It also recommended a number of mitigation measures for us to consider.”

Phase two will include a clearing of debris from the previous debris flows to allow space for future debris to come down.

“This design will have us create two large sediment basins, both upstream of the golf course,” said Ms. Zandbergen. “We’ll be building several weirs through each basin. The weirs will contain debris and they will slow down material as it moves through.”

Debris that does flow through the phase two work should be contained by the phase one work further down, she described.

“The phases are meant to work together,” explained Ms. Zandbergen.

Ms. Zandbergen confirmed this past spring a small amount of debris did come down during spring runoff, and “the works performed exactly as they were designed. Everything was contained.”

Ironclad Earthworks out of Calgary was awarded the contract by the RDEK at their last regular board meeting, Friday, July 7th.

The first phase of the project, which included widening of the Fairmont Creek channel from Marble Canyon to a pond/debris trap at the Mountainside Golf course and the construction of debris containment berms on both sides of the creek, was completed in spring 2015.

Phase three of the project is the installation of a rain gauge; that has already happened. Ms. Zandbergen says the rain gauge, placed near the top of the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort Ski Hill, will measure precipitation, temperature and snow depth.

“We want to use that to develop an early warning system,” she explained.

Phases two and three were 100 per cent funded by the Emergency Management BC, for a total of $1,473,880, announced in spring 2016.

Lorene Keitch
Email: Lorene@columbiavalleypioneer.com
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