By Kristian Rasmussen,
Another Columbia Valley business is suffering the effects of flooding from Windermere Creek. Although the creek is overflowing with water, Windermere Valley Golf Course is experiencing drought-like conditions that are threatening the course’s pristine grass.
On June 30th, water from Windermere Creek breached its banks, flooding Shadybrook Resort.
The flood was the result of excessive rain and sediment built up in the creek bed, which raised the bed 9 inches in 12 hours, according to Mike Dubois, Shadybrook owner. The deposits of rock and gravel were produced by the creek changing its path two kilometers upstream, carrying excess sediment and gravel from a new and easily eroded bed. The cause of the diversion is yet unconfirmed.
Further upstream from Shadybrook, Windermere Valley Golf Course is now suffering from a lack of water. The golf course has always used Windermere Creek to feed hungry sprinklers that irrigate the course during the summer heat. The intake channel sits downstream from the creek’s current path, and now excess sediment in the water has clogged course’s sprinklers, which prevents Windermere Valley from protecting its course from summer sun.
“We are just trying to keep our course from turning into a desert,” said Doug Wilfley, co-owner of Windermere Valley Golf Course.
“Right now we have two eight-hour shifts of guys on a tank, on the back of a tractor for 16 hours a day manually watering the greens, which is obviously something we would never have to do,” Mr. Wilfley said. “If you come out and have a look at the greens, the grass is starting to turn orange, brown, and red, and dying.”
The course is currently trying any means to get water into their irrigation system.
Mr. Wilfley and his staff are experimenting with a series of different screens to hopefully filter precious water from muddy sediment.
The problems for Windermere Valley Golf Course began five years ago, when Mr. Wilfley first started seeing pieces of the forest floor arriving in his intake.
“We noticed moss, pine cones, pine needles, and all kinds of material showing up,” he said. “I honestly think this is unfortunately Mother Nature causing the problem. Funny things can happen in a creek with just a couple of trees falling over.”
The solution is to redirect the stream back to its original path, according to Mr. Wilfley. The fix is much tougher than it implies because redirection requires stakeholders to produce a detailed engineering report on the environmental impact.
“We got the terms of reference from the Ministry of Environment and they are very onerous, to the point where it just seems almost non-feasible to fix the problem,” Mr. Wilfley said. “The time frame would be very long and trying to get all the approvals would be very difficult.”
The golf course co-owner expects the engineering report to take between six months to a year to complete, and said that the provincial government should take over.
Mr. Wilfley has hired his own engineer to look at a fix for the problem. He has found that his quoted price of $12,500 for a report was only to investigate repairs to his portion of the creek, which would not include redirection.
“This seems like something the government should be looking after now that it has gotten to this extreme point,” he said. “When it was just a simple solution that we were looking at it was feasible for a few of us to muck in there and fix it. This now affects so many citizens, so many businesses, and it affects the government.”
Long-term funding for the fix will have to come from those who are mainly affected, said Lee-Ann Crane, chief administrative officer for the Regional District of East Kootenay.
The district held a meeting with involved stakeholders last year after a similar flooding situation threatened homes and businesses in the area. The meeting ended with an unwillingness to fund mitigative strategies through raising property tax rates, Ms. Crane said.
“We are more than willing to help in the long run, but we need to know that this is something that stakeholders would like to do,” she said.
“The only way that we raise money for projects is through property taxes. The owners and properties within an area that see benefit from a service have to pay for it. That is the way that our system works and that is not something we can change.”
The regional district has already dedicated itself to solving the immediate flooding damage downstream of the creek diversion. The district has worked with Emergency Management B.C. to get approval for a 320 series excavator and a 996 loader to work for 20 hours each, removing excess sediment buildup at Shadybrook Resort.
“The work that is being done right now is designed to mitigate current flooding concerns,” Ms. Crane said. “This will not address what will happen two months from now, or a year from now.”
The strategy of the district to fix flooding concerns at Shadybrook has done little to stop the ongoing problems of sediment buildup.
“The creek is rapidly rising again,” said Mike Dubois, owner of Shadybrook Resort. “They lowered the creek 16 inches and it came back seven inches over 12 hours. I appreciate the funds to eliminate the immediate problem, but I think this is a total waste of money.”
Mr. Dubois is still rebuilding his campground and resort after the troubling effects of the Canada Day long weekend flooding.
“Last week we rebuilt and moved everybody back in on Friday,” he said. “The campsites are mostly back functioning, but the lake front area is covered in mud.”
Until an engineering report confirms that the requirements of the terms of reference laid out by the Ministry of Environment have been met, the district can’t begin working on the upstream cause of the Windermere Creek problem.
The district estimates that the completion of the required engineering report will likely cost between $15,000-$20,000. Ms. Crane suggested that interested stakeholders should begin the application process to garner a discretionary grant from the district to help with the attached costs.