Vernon residents living creekside along 25th Avenue have seen their properties diminished by washout, and are asking the city for help.
Jody Power lives at 4808 25th Avenue. She and her next-door neighbours—Tyson Assi and a couple who declined to be named—have watched as the ground along their fence line has disappeared, at times suddenly, during the influx of rain and snowmelt in the past several weeks.
“We don’t know how bad we’re undercut, so we don’t know how much more we’re going to lose,” Power said. “Our concern right now is our safety and our loss of land, and then also our property values. How are we going to get this back?”
Power and her neighbours say they’ve been in touch with the City of Vernon on multiple occasions regarding a debris build-up in the middle of the creek, caused by a large tree that split in the middle of the stream a few years ago.
The fallen tree has accumulated a build-up of natural debris, as well as discarded items ranging from patio furniture to bicycles.
On April 27, the bank along the properties gave out, destroying the fence and about five feet of backyard at 4806 25th Avenue, with similar damage to the neighbouring properties on either side.
The neighbours say the debris pile has diverted the creek flow against the bank and is responsible for its washing out.
“The city sent a work crew here and they started removing some branches and whatnot from the creek, but it was high water back then and they couldn’t really do much,” the resident at 4806 said.
On Friday, June 12 the City of Vernon said crews are actively monitoring roughly 55 sites throughout the city, assessing them for hazards and clearing them of debris.
However, the group of neighbours say that on the one hand, they’ve been told by the city that they can’t do anything in the creek to clear the debris themselves, because it’s under provincial jurisdiction and permits are required. On the other hand, they said they’ve been told it’s their responsibility to protect their own property.
“We’re stuck in the middle,” said the resident at 4806. “We’re on the high side, we can’t just throw sandbags in. We’re not protecting ourselves from water coming over for a flood, we’re protecting ourselves from an undercut.”
“They told us it’s our responsibility to protect our property,” Power said. “Well how do you protect your property when there’s nothing to protect now?”
Sandbags are a useful resource in situations of potential flooding, but for the neighbours, flooding is far from the issue at hand. Being on the high side of the creek, the problem is protecting the bank itself.
The neighbours said they’ve been in touch with Rick Peleshytyk, section head of the Regional Water Management for the Thompson-Okanagan region, who sent a hydrogeologist to the property on May 13. Peleshytyk was not available for comment on Saturday, June 13.
But with high water season in full swing, there’s nothing that can be done for the time being.
“It wouldn’t be good to get in there now because it’s high water,” Assi said.
For now, the neighbours say they’re hoping applications for clearing the creek will be completed in time to avoid having the same problem next year.