Swansea Point residents are feeling cautiously optimistic that work will finally be done to repair Hummingbird Creek and alleviate the risk of further flooding.
On Feb. 6, Tina and Dan Keely and other Swansea Point residents received a letter from Premier Christy Clark’s executive officer, Cameron Lewis, assuring work would soon begin to repair the creek, left full of debris from a flash flood that occurred over the summer. The letter arrived the same morning BC NDP Safety Critic Kathy Corrigan came to tour the area.
“Just before we went on the tour, this letter came from the government saying they were going to fix Hummingbird Creek, which we thought was absolutely spectacular because we’ve had, I don’t know how many more government reports done since last June, and every one of those reports – that we’ve been able to get our hands on – have said get that creek fixed, and get it fixed now.”
B.C. Ministry of Transportation spokesperson Kate Trotter confirmed in an email that work will soon begin on the creek.
“Work at Hummingbird Creek is being organized right now, and will be completed before spring freshet,” writes Trotter. In addition, a 90-minute public meeting is being held on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 7 p.m. at the Swansea Point Community Hall, during which details of the work will be discussed.
On June 23, 2012, residents of the small community were forced to evacuate when a flash flood occurred along Hummingbird Creek. Boulders, trees and other heavy debris caught in the flow blocked a culvert going under Highway 97A, causing the channel to divert. A torrent of water and debris moved over the highway and down along Swansea Road, and elsewhere in the community, causing substantial damage to roads, vehicles, homes and everything in its path. The neighbouring Hummingbird Beach Resort was also impacted by the flash flood.
Residents of 2 Mile, in the District of Sicamous, were evacuated at the same time as those in Swansea Point, as a similar flash flood and debris flow was happening along Sicamous Creek.
The creek and highway in 2 Mile have since been repaired. In Swansea Point, however, residents have been growing increasingly anxious. Though the section of 97A damaged by the flash flood and the culvert beneath were quickly restored, the channel itself remains full of debris. And with the culvert as it was prior to the flooding, Lois Schurek, who lives along the creek, is hoping for quick action from the province. She says if the government doesn’t do something soon, she will.
“If they don’t come and un-dam it by the time it gets to four feet, I’m going to be saying, ‘I want to be paid to do your work,’” laughed Schurek, while standing beside a large portion of her property that is now boulder-filled creek bed.
Schurek adds that, as a result of the flooding, the creek is now significantly higher, making the culvert less effective – a point she and the Keelys are well aware of given the recent warm weather.
“All of these flows or debris events, the earliest we’ve had on record is June 23,” says Tina. “But every year it gets warmer and, as climate change goes on, our freshets get earlier, and we can’t afford a freshet at all unless something is done on the creek. Because there are no banks in parts of the creek, and people’s wells are sitting in the creek or on the edge… so we have to get this damage repaired.”
Tina says all the attention Swansea Point is now receiving from the province, as well as Corrigan’s visit, is owed to residents, full-time and seasonal, who have been expressing their concerns and complaints to MLAs in their respective home communities.
“We started blitzing the government because we’d just had it,” says Tina. “As it turned out, everybody went home after the summer was over, and because our people who live here live all over the province and Alberta, they started blitzing their own MLAs wherever they lived, to tell them about all the damage done here and no one was fixing anything,” Tina explained.
Mike Thomas, who lives with his wife Dodi in a mobile home on the edge of Hummingbird Creek, invited NDP MLA Kathy Corrigan, opposition critic for public safety, and Shuswap NDP candidate Steve Gunner, along with other Swansea Point residents, to survey the damage to his property from last spring’s flooding. Trees from his property have fallen into the creek bed, which undercut the banks, and Thomas is concerned some homes could be washed away this spring if excess gravel is not removed from the creek.
Corrigan confirmed her visit was prompted by letters from Swansea Point residents/property owners including the Keely’s and Hummingbird Beach Resort president Steele Jordan.
“It was because they were so concerned the window of opportunity is going to close fairly quickly and if work isn’t done, it will be too late,” explained Corrigan in an EVN interview.
After touring Swansea Point and seeing the work that needs to be done, Corrigan says she is convinced Hummingbird Creek is a safety concern, which she plans to raise in the legislature.
“There’s been a lot of discussion about what needs to be done, but what’s happened is they’ve hit brick walls where they say we (the province) don’t have the funding for it,” said Corrigan. “Well, that’s not good enough. This work needs to be done and it needs to be done by the province. This is a provincial creek. It is the responsibility of the province to make it safe.”
Corrigan noted how residents haven’t been able to access two separate reports on the creek completed by the province, and referred to in the Feb. 6 letter, to get an idea of the scope of the work that’s been recommended. And she is concerned what the province is offering may not be enough.
“What it looks like it is doing to me is offering to return the channel to somewhat what it was like before last summer, but it isn’t addressing the root causes of the problem,” said Corrigan. “And that’s what the people want. And I think that’s legitimate. What is the point of restoring the creek bed if you have the potential of another thing happening.”
Timeliness of the creek repair is indeed a concern for Schurek and the Keelys, as is ongoing maintenance of the creek once the work is complete. Though, at this point, they are relieved to see any work done.
“We are cautiously optimistic because we’ve had this promise given to us so many times before,” says Tina.