By Kristian Rasmussen
Windermere’s Shadybrook Campground was declared a state of emergency, when Windermere Creek burst its banks on June 30th, engulfing trailers, patios and anything in its path with icy cold, mud-filled water.
Excess sediment in the river and heavy rainfall are blamed for the current state of the campground.
“I can’t put a dollar value on the damage costs from this flood because they are so enormous,” said Mike DuBois, owner of Shadybrook Resort. “This has just devastated my businesses.”
The campground was without power, and lost water and sewer services to about 20 sites as floodwaters forced residents to pull their belongings to higher ground during the weekend.
Calgary resident, Colin Atkinson, arrived to find his trailer site at Shadybrook in decent condition Friday night. Saturday morning held a different story.
“I woke up Saturday and the yard was full of water,” he said. “We have had water on our property before, but never to these levels.”
The Calgarian will likely have to move his belongings again if the floodwaters climb any higher, he said. Mr. Atkinson still managed to enjoy his Canada Day long weekend despite the soggy conditions.
“I have been playing around in my backyard with my little remote control boat because I knew it was going to be like this,” he said. “I came prepared to have some fun.”
The issues with Windermere Creek began in the spring of 2011 when the waterway diverted its course about two kilometres upstream of the Windermere Valley Golf Course. Creek waters entered an area of soil that was easily eroded and then carried excess quantities of sediment and gravel downstream. The muddy hitchhikers raised the riverbed and caused flooding at Shadybrook in August 2011, when a prior state of emergency was declared.
This year the riverbed was raised roughly 9 inches between 5:30 p.m., June 29th, and 7:30 a.m., June 30th, according to a monitoring station set up by Mr. DuBois.
“As a business owner it is extremely frustrating that the government knew the flood was going to occur a year ago and made a conscious decision to do nothing,” he said. “They haven’t committed any resources or funding to fixing the problem. The government would rather just spend the money on emergency repairs.”
Mr. DuBois said that he has met with other stakeholders affected by the flooding creek bed and is planning to take action without the assistance of the provincial government, to the tune of $25,000.
“Everybody is on board at this point,” he said. “We are just looking for money to fix the problem, but in my opinion it should be a government-funded repair. This is what I pay taxes for.”
The provincial government does not currently have funding for the project, Peter Holmes, habitat biologist for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, said.
“We are looking into getting an engineer’s report and assessment for diverting Windermere Creek back into the wetland,” he said. “We haven’t committed funds for it yet. Funds are pretty scarce these days.”
Excess flooding and sediment have had a drastic impact on business owners and water users in the area, Mr. Holmes agreed, but added that the responsibility to solve the problem is partly on the shoulders of those affected.
The drastic impact of the flood was also likely furthered by the Ministry of Transportation, Mr. DuBois added. A culvert on the east side of Highway 93/95, running through Windermere, was blocked with large amounts of sediment and debris from the creek relocation further upstream. When the blockage created a small lake on the east side of the highway, the ministry excavated the blockage, which sent debris rushing downstream to Shadybrook and Lake Windermere.
“The water was coming up gradually until they started excavating out their lake on the other side of the highway,” Mr. DuBois said. “It just flushed all the debris down here.”
The Ministry of Transportation has the duty and authority to protect structures, like roads and culverts, when they are at risk, Mr. Holmes said.
The excess sediment in the creek has also created ongoing problems for Windermere drinking water.
“Everyone who drinks Windermere town water should be concerned about this,” Mr. DuBois said. “The distance between Windermere Creek and the intake is only about 600 metres.”
Excess sediment in drinking water acts as a carrier for bacteria, Mr. Holmes added.
* UPDATE: Just as The Pioneer was heading to press July 4th, the Regional District of East Kootenay announced immediate plans to remedy the problem during the following two days.
“We have been working with the province to get the approvals to do the work within the creek channel and have been given the green light for two days of equipment time,” said Brian Funke, Emergency Operations Centre Director. “The work will focus on removing the build up of sediment and gravel in the lower portion of the stream bed, with the hopes of returning the creek back to its channel.”