With an eye on 1972 flood levels that gave Oak Hills the moniker “Soak Hills,” Westsyde and Westmount residents are increasingly concerned as river levels rise.
Amanda Cosburn lives in Westsyde and is part of a Facebook group of area residents worried about erosion near Westsyde Centennial Park. It comes as the city anticipates a one in 20-year flood year.
“We’ve been watching how areas of town are getting upgraded for flooding and getting protected or having construction done to them, and it’s like, ‘Well, what about the Westsyde dike?’” Cosburn said, noting places where rusted debris and cars — used years ago as part of a riverbank erosion-fortification process — jut out onto the beach.
Westmount resident Naomi Powell has raised questions about the impact of tree and plant root systems, with invasive species growing in the area.
Residents are concerned overall about dike integrity and the impact infrastructure failure could have on their homes and pocketbooks, should predictions about flooding this year come to fruition.
“Just this year, they took away flood insurance for anyone who is on a 25-year flood plain in Kamloops,” Powell said. “Our only defence is the dike.”
City staff, however, say the Westsyde dike is not compromised, noting dikes are assessed regularly, even more so now due to high waters and flood risk.
City utilities services supervisor Joe Luison said the Westsyde dike is inspected daily. Concerns about erosion and rusty vehicles in that area are linked to riverbank, not the dike, he said.
“The dike itself is in good condition as we know it,” Luison said. “Most riverbanks do erode. Our engineers have looked at the area, but it doesn’t pose risk to the dike currently. Riverbanks are more of a ministry concern and I believe we’ve notified them, as well.”
Westsyde resident Kathleen Feschuk is also concerned about the riverbank. An area resident for many years, she said the riverbanks are being used now more than she can recall, with people stuck at home during the pandemic visiting often when the water was low.
“It was great to see people, but they just wrecked the banks,” Feschuk said. “Walking up and down, with dogs. And those banks, if they lose 10 feet every year, it’s not going to take that many years and those banks will be up to the dike and then we’ll be in trouble. I just think it would be good to be proactive. Like, come on.”
She wants signage erected to notify people to stay away during times when the riverbank is particularly vulnerable, such as during high water season. She said the matter is also a safety concern.
However, in attempting to rectify the situation on multiple occasions, she said she has been caught in a jurisdictional ping pong match, passed back and forth between the city and province, with concerns not addressed.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada said in a statement that old vehicles were used as a form of riverbank armouring back in the 1970s, with the work originally related to flood- and erosion-control measures.
Meanwhile, Luison has encouraged residents to contact the city with immediate and specific concerns about the dike, at which time someone will assess the situation.
That can be done by calling 250-828-3461.