Florence Seidel and George Schwartz stand on the plywood plank that now bridges the ditch through their driveway, a rerouting of the creek that overflowed on April 22.- Image credit: Martha Wickett/Salmon Arm Observer.

Silver Creek flood leaves questions

Residents not pleased about creek rerouting, destroyed driveways

Florence Seidel and George Schwartz are not pleased with the plan to run a creek through a ditch alongside their front yard.

Seidel has lived in the 1600 block of Salmon River Road for about 40 years; Schwartz, her spouse, is also a longtime resident of the area.

On Saturday, April 22, they were two of the residents evacuated from a total of 10 Silver Creek homes when water let loose on the mountainside above, creating a mudslide that moved trees and boulders. The new stream of water jumped into the creek that, until then, had trickled through their next-door-neighbours’ property, the Knights.

“Now we’ve heard they’ve merged the water from the mountains with this creek,” said Seidel Thursday. “If that happens, we’ll have a humongous creek. It should never be that close… in a neighbourhood.”

The former creek, named Anderson Creek on some maps, they know as Andrew Brook. It has flowed under Salmon River Road through a culvert by their neighbours’ fence for many years. That culvert filled with mud during the flooding, so the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) rerouted the greatly enlarged creek in order to get Salmon River Road open.

“I still think the simplest thing would be to put it along the forest road and down Haines Creek and get it out of the neighbourhood,” says Schwartz, who’s 86. “If I had a Cat, I’d do it, I’ve built lots of roads. They need to check it – if they have too much of a grade they’d have to go higher.”

Otherwise, he says, some kind of flume should be put in their neighbours’ yard so the water doesn’t seep everywhere.

Adds Seidel: “Why run it along the road for a long length of space and then flood somebody’s field first before they’re going to get to the river?”

Seidel and Schwartz now have, instead of a driveway, a piece of plywood going over the new ditch, just as three other families on Salmon River Road do. The ministry will not respond to questions from the media about its plans or its approach to the flooding; the ministry’s communications staff say they are not allowed to comment on anything until after the provincial election.

However, Darcy Mooney, emergency operations centre director with the Shuswap Emergency Program, said last week he was told by MOTI that putting in culverts at the ends of driveways is the responsibility of the homeowner.

Seidel thinks they’re passing the buck.

“We pay our taxes too. I don’t know if they think it’s okay to have a board thing over the ditch – I don’t know what’s up with them.”

Tom and Narcisse Welsh own a farm in the 1700 block of Salmon River Road, downhill from the flooding. Since April 22, their alfalfa field has been the recipient of the water rerouted down the ditch.

The water crossed the road via an existing culvert but, instead of heading for the Salmon River, it pooled in their field and began radiating toward their son Daniel’s barnyard and has been threatening their son’s home.

“They’re very lackadaisical about doing anything about it,” remarked Narcisse of MOTI. “We could have accepted this as a quick fix, but it’s gone on now for over a week.”

The couple said they won’t know how much damage has been done until the water dries up.

To try to stop the runoff, Tom and his son excavated a ditch along their north boundary on Sunday that terminates in the river. That meant highways would need to install a new culvert under the road and direct the water to their ditch.

Welsh called the Observer back Monday after an initial conversation earlier in the morning. He was pleasantly surprised that MOTI crews had arrived with a new culvert in hand.

Similar to Schwartz’s idea, Welsh said he had suggested the creek be diverted down Sellenback Road, north of where water came down in the 1600 block.

“It’s downhill all the way to the river, but there’s an elevation difference there and they would have to go and divert the water uphill behind the Knight property. They apparently can’t do that because their jurisdiction is just concerning the right-of-way… If they go off the right-of-way they have to get forestry involved.”

Welsh said he was given a number to call the forest ministry, but no one got back to him. Then he decided it’s really not his problem; it’s MOTI who should be contacting them.

Welsh thinks the people with destroyed driveways deserve help.

“I asked them (MOTI) in return for us letting them get rid of the water through our property, they put culverts in for those people that they dug their driveway up. Whether anything will happen on that or not, who knows.”

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