May flood in Cache Creek similar to 1979, especially in Valleyview

Events of May 2015 bear similarity to flooding in 1979.

The Valleyview subdivision in Cache Creek was hit hard in the May 23 flood; but a similarly devastating flood swept through the neighbourhood 36 years ago.

The opening sentences of the Journal article describing the event, which occurred on Aug. 25, 1979, could have been written about the 2015 flood. “A flash flood in Cache Creek on Saturday evening did thousands of dollars’ worth of damage to homes, yards, and streets and the disaster happened in only a few minutes. It began to rain about 6:00 pm on Saturday, then suddenly the sky opened up and let it all come down at once. The sewer and storm system was unable to take it away fast enough and it ended up in basements and yards, cutting itself its own path as the water collected and coursed down.”

The article goes on to describe how the Valleyview subdivision, which suffered the brunt of the damage, was already the subject of controversy. In March 1979 Council met with engineers from the Ministry of Highways to address residents’ concerns about shifting soil, which had lead to cracks appearing in some houses. In May the firm of Golder Associates was brought in to “do whatever they can to isolate the problem”.

No solution had been found by the time of the flood in August, which was thought to have been caused in part by a new subdivision under construction above the area. Cache Creek residents believed that the developer had done a lot of redirecting and diverting of water; but as it was outside the municipal boundary, Council had no control over it. The developer was eventually cleared of blame.

The author of a letter criticizing Council for its “slow action” in dealing with the Valleyview flooding was referred to Victoria, with Mayor Art McLean explaining that a cloudburst creates “unique drainage problems”. At a Council meeting in October 1979 Alderman Dave Debert wondered what blame could be attached to the Village, noting that the drainage system had been designed by professionals for normal drainage, not for flash flood circumstances. “There’s no way you can design a system that would take a thing like that, the water has to go somewhere.” Debert also suggested that an engineer look at the situation and present recommendations.

Following the 2015 flood, Westrek Geotechnical Services was retained by the TNRD to undertake a geotechnical assessment of affected properties in the Village. One of these was Valleyview, and in preliminary assessment presented at the July Council meeting noted the damage caused by the 1979 flood. “At least one detention basin and a 135 metre long interception ditch were built on private property immediately uphill from these [affected] lots, just outside the Village boundary. Records are not available, so details of the facilities are uncertain, and it is unclear who is responsible for maintenance.”

These structures are in a state of disrepair and no longer functioning, according to Westrek, and therefore “a significant public safety concern exists from a future flood event that could result in similar property damage or cause injuries or possibly fatalities.” The assessment recommends that the Village review the history of the ditch; complete an engineering evaluation of the structures and make recommendations to upgrade the structures to modern standards, if possible; and carry out construction work to re-construct or restore them.

The report acknowledges that this will not be a simple task and may take years to complete. It also notes that an engineering solution that meets current standards might be too costly to build or maintain, in which case the Village should seek alternative methods to reduce the risk to lots in Valleyview. A local realtor agrees that these measures are necessary to reassure prospective buyers, saying that some buyers might be sceptical about properties in Valleyview particularly unless steps are taken by the Village to cope with any future flooding in the area.

Barbara Roden

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