Vanderhoof drops berm plans, too expensive

The District of Vanderhoof declined building a berm despite property owners concerns of flooding

Ron Ephrom shows the near three-foot tall water markings on a fence near his home off Sandy Beach Road due to his property being flooded by Nechako waters in 2007.

Ron Ephrom shows the near three-foot tall water markings on a fence near his home off Sandy Beach Road due to his property being flooded by Nechako waters in 2007.

The District of Vanderhoof has declined to participate in a flood mitigation program to build a berm west of Sandy Beach Road despite flooding concerns from landowners.

“It’s too cost-prohibitive and we are extending the grant money back,” Evan Parliament, District of Vanderhoof chief administrative officer, said.

In 2007, an unpredicted flood carried nearly three feet of water from the Nechako River onto properties west of the river by Sandy Beach Road. A temporary dike was created so water didn’t start to flow into the downtown core. Although the runoff that year was particularly high, the urgency for a permanent flood mitigation plan was initiated.

In 2013, the federal and provincial governments committed $768,000, representing two-thirds of the $1.1 million needed to build a flood-mitigation berm near Sandy Beach Road. Although the District of Vanderhoof (DOV) was ready to commit the remaining $384,000, the deal meant the DOV would have to purchase the land the berm would cover stretching over four properties.

However, negotiations between the landowners, the DOV and the province fell apart after the province’s proposed alignment of the berm.

“The only berm the province agreed to would have my home on the wrong side,” Ron Ephrom,  one of the landowners said.

Ephrom, the only landowner living on the land in question, said there is an alternative.

“There’s a natural brim that could easily be improved on close to the river but the province wouldn’t allow it.”

The DOV asked for an extension on the berm’s application deadline so they could negotiate a location but were unsuccessful in getting the extension approved.

“We asked for the berm to be realigned and that was denied … to build the berm we would have to start construction this spring/summer but we didn’t even have the land yet. Since [the deadline] was not extended we didn’t have time, so we opted out of the program altogether,” Parliament said.

The berm application can be submitted annually but concerns of landowners remain with the possible flooding expected for this spring.

“We, as landowners, have invested in our property because we want to develop it into subdivisions. All we want is to protect our investment and the land value,” Ephrom said.

The proposed alignment of the berm was signed off by Lyle Larsen, deputy inspector of dikes with the Ministry of Forests Lands and Natural Resources, who said the idea is to prevent any further development in a high-risk flood area.

“Vanderhoof is built in a low-lying floodplain and the Sandy Beach area is very low-lying. When water levels come up to near-bank flow, water infiltrates the ground. If the berm is placed too close to the river bank it will constrict the flow of the river,” he said.

Larsen also said there is already development along the left and right sides of the river (Reid Drive and Riverview Drive) upstream of the four properties that are of concern.

“Say the riverbanks get too developed on both sides for too long of a distance, that creates a problem. It restricts the flow and causes higher flood levels upstream. Vanderhoof also has the additional problem of porous ground. When water levels start rising you get the infiltration so it’s better not to develop in those areas and have a setback berm in place so you keep the floodplain area wide as possible,” he said.

However, Larsen’s analysis of the situation doesn’t sit well with current property owners.

“So why are we being told it’s a development property if we will never get to develop,” Ephrom said.

Landowner Laure Hartwig-Clay moved to Prince George three years ago but still owns the 12-acre property adjacent to the Water View subdivision. She feels the District of Vanderhoof could have been more up front about their flood mitigation plans.

“The property is absolutely gorgeous and when we bought in 2007 we planned to make it into a horse farm. We found out later on we couldn’t because the future plan for Vanderhoof was to subdivide it [for housing development]. So we invested a lot of money doing surveys and sorting through the steps to develop it but it seemed the DOV blocked us at every stage. The town knew about this potential berm they wanted two years ago and we weren’t contacted about it until the meeting in January 2015,” she said.

During that meeting the DOV asked Hartwig-Clay is she would like to fully relinquish her land for the purpose of protecting the town.

Without the property owners handing over their land it would likely cost the DOV more than $1 million to buy the properties outright.

“They asked us to give all our land. Who can afford to do that?

“We have $200,000 in property. We tried to work with them to help protect the town and still use our property but if they want to flood the whole thing they should compensate [us]. We were happy to give a piece of property for free but not the whole thing,” she said, adding she is still in support of flood mitigation.  “The rest of us haven’t actually built on our property so we don’t have as much of a risk in a flood situation, unlike Ron [Ephrom] whose homestead is on the property … there just has to be another option … it all seems so extreme and unnecessary.”

Parliament said they never asked for all their land to be donated, only a 10-metre statutory right-of-way so the DOV could build the berm.

“Landowners can grant the DOV statutory right-of-way free of charge but they chose not to because it devalues their land and we respect that … because we couldn’t get the 10-metre strips, the only other option was to buy the entire parcel and adding up all four would exceed a million dollars. That is why we opted out of the program, the cost of land would exceed the cost of the berm,” Parliament said, who added the DOV will continue to monitor the river to ensure, in the meantime, there is not a repeat of the 2007 flooding.

 

Just Posted

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. Northern Health confirmed it has the lowest vaccination rates amongst the province’s five regional health authorities. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Vaccination rates in Vanderhoof, Fraser Lake, Fort St James well below provincial average

COVID-19 immunization clinics for youth 12+ coming up in Fort St. James

Steve McAdam (left) is studying substrate conditions in the Nechako River and how they impact sturgeon eggs. The work will help design habitat restoration measures, said McAdam. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
Sturgeon egg studies to help inform future habitat restoration

“It’s an interesting, challenging issue,” says Steve McAdam

Saik’uz First Nation Coun. Jasmine Thomas and Chief Priscilla Mueller speak about the need for addiction treatment facility near Vanderhoof, March 2021. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)
Vanderhoof addiction treatment centre tries again with ministry support

Agriculture minister insists she is not interfering in land commission

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Most Read