Since a flood watch of the Kicking Horse River was undertaken by the Town of Golden and its Golden and Area Emergency Program between June 4 and June 8 many questions still remain on how the rising waters were dealt with by the town.
Town of Golden Mayor Christina Benty after being briefed by Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) staff on June 9th along with other members of Town Council, stated, “Council was impressed by the professionalism, experience, and dedication of Town staff and experts who worked at the local EOC. I believe the community was very well served during this event, but I do understand that the public often has questions about how we respond in such events.”
In the regular council meeting held on June 12 Benty again complimented the staff who were involved with the situation arising from the rising waters.
“The province has had high praise for the staff’s mobilization of the various resources during that time. The reality is what could have happened didn’t happen but it could have happened.”
According to a press release written by the Town of Golden, “A height of 5.1 metres will top the dyke at its lowest elevation behind the businesses in the 400 block of 9th Avenue North. Based upon correlations between the BC River Forecast Centre data and the water height markings adjacent to the Highway 95 Bridge in town, at its highest point the Kicking Horse River was within about seven centimetres of topping the lowest point on the dyke.”
A topographical map based on detailed GIS survey elevations identifies the lowest point in the dyke as immediately east of Spirit Square adjacent to the Rockwater Grill and Bar.
According to the release the first position where the dyke would be breached is at the very place where the Aqua Dam was deployed.
This was subsequently confirmed by a Hyddrological Engineer appointed by the Province who has also undertaken extensive local flood risk assessments for the Town of Golden in the last several years.
During the event the Golden and Area Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) requested the Provincial Regional Emergency Operation Centre (PREOC) provide a Provincially appointed and certified River Assessor.
It is stated in the release, “The Kicking Horse River and creeks in the area were continuously under this individual’s scrutiny during the Flood Watch period. Hospital Creek was assessed on numerous occasions, including the bank-topping at the Brookside Motel. It was the Assessor’s recommendation to the EOC Director that an excavator not be used because doing so would have been hazardous to the operator.”
Coun. Ron Oszust said in the council meeting that many questions had been bouncing around in social media about the flooding which happened at Brookside Motel in Golden.
He believed an explanation about the Town’s responsibilities in this situation would be prudent.
“It is on private property and both CP Rail and Brookside, the area was a gong show. It was the busiest street in town for three or four days,” Oszust said. He went on to say he felt it would be valuable to speak out.
“Often when staff is responding to emergencies the focus is not on private property it is on public property. Out of that we will be doing a debriefing with staff. This will include our own public works staff because there is definitely some misconceptions out there about the role of the operations centre and town staff when responding to emergencies on private property,” said David Allen Chief Administrative Officer for the Town of Golden.
Oszust also suggested getting in touch with CP Rail in the area to see if they could help with any issues which might arise from issues on their property.
“I think what ended up happening was there was some misinformation out there about the Town being involved with the decision if there could be any dredging of that property. The provincial flood assessor said ‘No you can’t have equipment going in and pulling material out of that private property,’” Allen said. “The fear was the safety of the operator would be potentially compromised by doing any of that work. So it was not actually a Town decision it was a Provincial decision.”
According to the release, the owner of Brookside Motel was informed of the assessment in a very timely manner.
It was also said that early in the flooding situation the owner was offered, and accepted, four pallets of pre-filled sandbags, which were delivered to the motel.
“The correct mitigation to the situation at the Brookside Motel was to safely excavate silt and gravel from the creek on the CP property to the North of the motel (i.e. down-grade). This was accomplished under the scrutiny of the River Assessor and a Provincially appointed Site Safety Officer, also requested by the EOC and provided by the PREOC. The water level at the motel receded as expected following this action,” was concluded in the press release from the town.
It also stated that private property rights and other civil liberties may only be infringed upon if extraordinary powers are adopted by Council subsequent to the declaration of a State of Local Emergency and such a declaration was judged unnecessary in these particular circumstances.
Therefore, the undertaking by the Town of works on private property and within a riparian zone would have been unlawful.