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Cache Creek cleanup continues as village gets more funding for flood planning

Grant of $150,000 will help develop plan to prevent damage to sewer line in event of flooding
A section of parking lot behind the Cache Creek fire hall was washed away during the May flooding. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)

As cleanup continues in Cache Creek following this May’s devastating floods, the village has received another grant to help it mitigate the effects of flooding in the future.

The province announced recently that Cache Creek will be receiving $150,000 for “Sanitary System Improvement Design for Flood Mitigation”. Cache Creek CAO Damian Couture says that the village’s 2021 Flood Mitigation Plan highlighted an issue with one of the village’s sewer lines, which is directly adjacent to the bridge at the north end of town on Highway 97.

“The sewer line is dramatically lower than the road surface there to allow for a gravity feed, and that was identified as a weakness in our infrastructure,” he explains.

“We’ve seen a few times now where that particular sewer line has been at risk. In every recent flooding event we’ve had to use a makeshift bypass system that has to be manned 24/7, and we need to rent equipment to do it.”

Couture says that the Flood Mitigation Plan recommended keeping the pipe as it is, but installing a lift station/force main at the site, which would force the sewage higher up and then lower down.

“The system would operate as normal 99 per cent of the time, but when we have those flood events we would have a backup, and all we would have to do is turn on a switch. That way we can continue to convey wastewater through the system effectively, and if the pipe is damaged during high water then [river] water isn’t contaminated, so it’s an ecological prevention measure.

“It’s an exposed line. When the water level comes up to a certain point — and it’s come up to the level of the pipe — debris and large trees coming down the waterway can damage or destroy that sewer line. Water alone shouldn’t cause it to fail; the bigger concern is what the water conveys.”

Couture adds that most of the Cache Creek sewer system is gravity-fed. “The natural slope we have in pipes brings everything to its termination point at the wastewater treatment plant. If we raise that chunk of pipe then we need a force main to collect the wastewater, lift it up, and put it through another pipe.

“We’ve been asked why we don’t do that all the time and get rid of the existing pipe. A lift station and force main is more wear and tear to use all the time. If we just use it in an emergency we’ll get a much longer life out of it. This funding will help us create a shovel-ready project so we can apply for grant funding to carry out the work.”

Asked about the cleanup of the town, Couture says that the village is trying to do what it can with the manpower they have available.

“The fire hall cleanup is going well. There have been some delays, but we seem to be on the better side of it. The fire department is in service but still substantially impacted. There’s no running water except to fill up trucks, no washrooms, and the conference space for meetings and training was substantially damaged and isn’t available, so the department is severely hampered. It’s being worked on, but it’s not back to where it needs to be.

“Debris cleanup [outside the fire hall] is coming along. There was substantial damage to the apron out front, so we’ll have to remove the concrete and re-pour it. The parking lot behind the hall isn’t in good shape, so there’s definitely a lot of work to be done.”

The village has received funding for a recovery manager, and was able to split it into two pieces: one for project management, the other for a community recovery liaison position. TRUE Consulting will be handling the project management, and Couture says that the application period has just closed for the community recovery position.

“One of the goals for that position is to have more community-focused conversations and information. We know it’s been quiet from us, but we have such a small team and we’re trying to get things done. It means we’ll have someone in the office who isn’t doing another job who can answer questions and find out what the needs of the community are, to give people a direct voice.”

The community recovery liaison position is for a six-month term, but Couture says that if the person is needed after that the village would look into applying for more funding to extend it.

He adds that TRUE Consulting will, in conjunction with staff, be identifying everything that was damaged in the flooding and putting price estimates on all of it. The village will then seek Disaster Financial Assistance (DFA) funding to get as much recovery as possible, with TRUE managing the projects going forward with input from staff and council.

Couture acknowledges that a challenge with DFA funding is the requirement to build back to what was there before, not necessarily to “build back better” to mitigate future events.

“Additional funding would likely not come through DFA. However, a big factor with DFA is that if [building back] something is not safe based on regulations or legislation established before the event, you can replace it with something better as the least costly legal option. That’s why we felt it was important to have an engineering firm as the project manager: they know these things.

“We went with TRUE because they have seen this happen so many times. Their hydrologist has been on-site for multiple consecutive years of flooding and has a very acute knowledge of the situation. Having skilled professionals like that will add a lot of value when making those determinations.”

Couture notes that there has been a lot of discussion with ministries and staff to figure out good solutions for Quartz Road.

“We hear feedback almost every day from the public about it, and people are submitting good input. The Flood Mitigation Plan outlines four different approaches to take there, and the previous council went with the option of a bridge [at Quartz Road], removing the middle culvert, and daylighting the waterway.

“That’s been the idea going forward. It seems to check all the boxes, and there seems to be a consensus that that’s likely the best course. We’re still looking at other options. The big thing with a bridge is how is it getting funded, and we’re looking into opportunities that might be present.”

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