The B.C. government has finally agreed to give Swansea Point residents what they have been calling for since last summer’s devastating flooding from Hummingbird Creek.
On Tuesday, Transport Minister Todd Stone announced the province will be committing $3 million to the construction of a new bridge next year along the creek over Highway 97A.
Stone made the announcement while standing next to the existing culvert beneath the highway which rapidly clogged during last year’s flooding, sending water and debris over the highway and into residential areas in Swansea Point.
Following the flood event, the province contracted the firm Golder and Associates to assess the creek and provide recommendations for remedial work. Stone said Golder’s report is now public, and that it identifies the culvert as not meeting ministry requirements for flow capacity.
“So today, along with colleague Greg Kyllo, MLA for Shuswap, I’m pleased to announce the government is remedying the situation; we are going to construct a new, clear-span bridge on Highway 97A over Hummingbird Creek,” said Stone. “This bridge will replace the existing culvert right behind me here. It will result in a higher level of dependability.
“The structure will also increase capacity for Hummingbird Creek and will reduce the chance of a blockage like all of you experienced last year, thus ensuring that Highway 97A remains open for Shuswap residents and tourists as well.”
In addition, Stone said the ministry will be doing additional work in the creek to further improve stream flows.
“Some of the gravel bed load will be removed from the creek near the outlet into Mara Lake. Approximately 120 metres of creek bank adjacent to Hummingbird Creek Resort will also be strengthened,” said Stone, noting the work will be on top of the $565,000-worth of stream improvements already completed in the creek since last year.
Both works were applauded by locals gathered for the announcement. A number of them had attended a public meeting earlier this year, hosted by the ministry. At that meeting, MOTI district manager Murray Tekano went over remedial work proposed for the creek which did not include what locals wanted most: a bridge or, at the least, a larger culvert.
Since then, the Swansea Point Community Association, through a Freedom of Information request, were able to acquire a 2003 report conducted by the province following the 1997 debris flow in Hummingbird Creek. In addition to a bridge that was proposed by the province but never built, the report recommends a 150,000-cubic metre debris berm with associated outlets and a retaining wall as the best option for mitigating future flood events.
The report also states the frequency of debris flows is expected to increase, and that by completing the above option, with bridge, the province would reduce the risk to life by 75 per cent.
On July 24, 2013, NDP safety critic Kathy Corrigan spoke to the report and the related concerns of Swansea Point residents in the legislature.
“This information and the severity of the circumstances were not shared with the public,” stated Corrigan. “I have talked to many of the residents. They are shocked. They have just received this. They are shocked by this report and the fact that it was withheld from them and that the decisions that they made, and that the government made subsequently, did not include any sharing of this information with them. They are very concerned.”
Community Association president Dan Keely said he is still concerned, though the announcement goes a long way to ease the apprehension of local residents and property owners.
Stone said the 2003 report looked at the circumstance of the day, and that since then a lot of work has been done on the creek.
“The combination of the work that’s been done to date, as well as the replacement of this culvert with a new bridge, will provide the protection I think all the residents are looking for,” said Stone. “That all being said, we’re going to continue to monitor and, if further action is required, we’ll assess it at that time.”
Stone says a bridge design is in the works and that he expects construction will be completed next year.