Wildfires

Each wildfire season, when the danger reaches extreme levels, I wonder why Vernon has not been more proactive in utilizing our existing spray irrigation infrastructure to protect vulnerable neighbourhoods located in wildfire interface zones?

Not many cities have this ability but we do. Yet we have not tapped it. My view is that Vernon mayor and council have been remiss in not doing so.

As part of approvals for the Rise development, Vernon required a twinning of water lines in the Bella Vista and adjacent neighbourhoods, such that potable water now comes from Mission Hill/Duteau Creek and agricultural water comes from Goose Lake. This Goose Lake water is also used by the Rise golf course.

Everyone applauded this because while it was possible to make Goose Lake water potable, it was not possible to make it aesthetically pleasing, at least not at an affordable cost to ratepayers.

Pumping stations for this spray irrigation water are in place as are the pipes necessary to get it all the way from Goose Lake to as far out and as high up as the Rise golf course.

Thus, it would not cost an arm and a leg to extend the piping along the old Grey Canal trail to protect all of the homes in the wildfire interface zone in the Bella Vista neighbourhood and it could be extended as far as the Turtle Mountain development and the Blue Jay subdivision. In fact, the large pipes bringing this spray irrigation water from Goose Lake are visible in places on the surface if you walk the trail going from Turtle Mountain towards Blue Jay.

Let me confess that I live in the Bella Vista area and my property backs on to the old Grey Canal so I have a vested interest in this happening, but so do hundreds of other homeowners as well. Most of this interface is open range land used for cattle grazing and is heavily infested with sage brush.

Extending spray irrigation to it would probably be welcomed by the existing landowners as a free benefit that would improve the grazing at no cost to them and provide them with the opportunity to clear the sagebrush and produce some hay or other forage crops if they so desired.

Any holdouts could be subject to an easement in the interests of public safety, no land would need to be expropriated.

Similar action could be taken over time and on a prioritized basis to extend the spray irrigation lines and some pumping stations from the Rise above Tronson Road as far out as Canadian Lakeshore Estates.

Likewise, existing spray irrigation lines could be extended from the Commonage to provide wildfire interface protection to Beverly Hills Estates and areas further out along Eastside Road.

Yes, it will cost money and it will take time but much of the needed infrastructure already is in place. Plus our population growth means we are rapidly running out of places to dispose of our reclaimed effluent. A simple look at the Commonage will show how effective spray irrigation could be against wildfires.

Keep in mind too that it would be easy, given some forethought, to hook up a tankers of flame retardant to these lines to help beat down any interface wildfires.

Jim Bodkin

Vernon