Abnormal is the new normal – Shuswap flooding analysis

Preface

Federal and provincial government staff operate under a gag order that restricts the flow of information to the public. Communication staff manufacture the only information allowed to be disseminated. Consequently, it is difficult for the media and thus the public to know and understand the factors behind important issues, whether these are disasters such as what recently occurred in the Shuswap or controversial decisions such as the sale of BC Rail.

Below is a column that I recently wrote that was based in part on discussions I had with someone in government who toured the Mara hills by truck and helicopter two days after the flood events. Unfortunately, the column could not go to press because I was unable to provide the source for the information. I do plan to re-write the column in a way that the message can be delivered – which is basically that we can expect more disasters like this one due to climate change and communities must take measures to protect themselves.

Abnormal is the new normal

It was fifteen years ago that the last washout devastated the Mara Lake area, when a debris flood swept down Hummingbird Creek and tore up the highway and parts of Swansea Point. This year the damage is even greater and there were two events, one in Sicamous Creek and the other in Hummingbird and Mara Creeks which join together just above the highway. In 1997, the slide occurred because after 5 days of heavy rain, a poorly designed cutblock channeled too much water into an inappropriately placed culvert that diverted water onto a steep slope, which then gave way into the creek.

It appears that the major cause of this year’s massive flood events was simply inadequate culverts that could not channel the amount of water unleashed by upwards of 80 mm of rain that fell on the remaining snow in the mountains. For the Swansea flood, another obvious factor is clearcut logging, which has been extensive in the watersheds. The loss of forest cover results in a significant increase in the amount of water entering streams (from 5 to 70 percent more water).

read the rest of this column at the Shuswap Environmental Action Society website

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