Fairmont Debris Flow Mitigation

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LATEST UPDATE:

The RDEK received a report in late 2020 outlining the debris flow hazard potential on Cold Spring Creek. Given the magnitude of the hazard and the risk to life and property, the report was immediately shared with the community, and our team has been working to find ways to mitigate the hazard as expeditiously as possible. A risk assessment is currently being completed that idenitifies the potential life loss and economic risk posed by the debris flow hazard.

It was anticipated that, given the magnitude of the mitigation works required, that it would take multiple projects requiring

LATEST UPDATE:

The RDEK received a report in late 2020 outlining the debris flow hazard potential on Cold Spring Creek. Given the magnitude of the hazard and the risk to life and property, the report was immediately shared with the community, and our team has been working to find ways to mitigate the hazard as expeditiously as possible. A risk assessment is currently being completed that idenitifies the potential life loss and economic risk posed by the debris flow hazard.

It was anticipated that, given the magnitude of the mitigation works required, that it would take multiple projects requiring multiple grants, to complete, and that significant funds would be required to be raised by the community for matching contributions. In early 2021, a grant program became available that could allow for completion of the second phase of mitigation works in a single project, with possible 100% funding of up to $10 million. Although the timelines required for this program are extremely tight, it was felt that it was worth pursuing, for the benefit of the community.

This grant represents a tremendous opportunity for the community if we are approved, as it would be 100% funded by the Federal and Provincial governments. To put its magnitude into perspective, if approved, it would represent over 20% of all the available funding for the Province in this funding program and would be the largest single grant the RDEK has ever received for a capital project.

We will not know until mid-April whether or not the funding application will be approved; however, recognizing both the significance of this grant opportunity AND the potential risk to the community, our team has been moving as quickly as possible to meet the legislative timelines and has been working with the Ministry on all options to ensure we are positioned to meet the terms of the grant funding should we be successful.

To read the latest project update, including an update on the assent process and bylaw amendments, estimated tax rates, and more, please read the March 12, 2021 Newsletter (available in the Documents section).

We recognize there are still many questions – and we are committed to answering them.

Once we have more details on the approval of the bylaw amendment, have received the risk assessment and hear whether or not we have been successful in the grant, we will be sending out an update and scheduling a community meeting. While we do not yet know the timing of the meeting, it will likely be in May given when we expect to hear on these three items.


OCTOBER 2020 PUBLIC INFORMATION MEETINGS & HAZARD ASSESSMENT OVERVIEW

On October 29, the RDEK hosted two public information sessions to present the plans for Phase 1 of the Cold Spring Creek Debris Flow Mitigation Project and the recent hazard assessment that was completed on Cold Spring Creek.

Electoral Area F Director Susan Clovechok facilitated the sessions, which kicked off with a presentation by RDEK Engineering Technician Kara Zandbergen who presented an overview of the Fairmont Flood & Landslide Service. The second presenter of the night was Dr. Matthias Jakob of BGC Engineering, an internationally respected expert on debris flood and debris flows, who did a detailed presentation on the Cold Spring Creek Hazard Assessment he just completed on the creek. Finally, McElhany Engineering's Karen Prezelj presented the plans for Phase 1 of the project. The presentations were followed by questions and answers at each session. A full biography of the presenters is available in the documents section.

The video of the full 7:00pm session is linked below. Key times are as follows:

  • 11:43 - Video starts
  • 15:23 - Fairmont Flood & Landslide Service Overview (Kara Zandbergen, RDEK)
  • 26:48 - Cold Spring Creek Hazard Assessment 2020 (Dr. Matthias Jakob, BGC Engineering)
  • 1:17:23 - Phase 1 - Cold Spring Creek Debris Flow Mitigation Project (Karen Prezelj, McElhaney Engineering)
  • 1:21:18 - Q&A

The 2pm session experienced some technical difficulties and the first part of the meeting was cut off; however, both sessions featured the same presentations. The video of the Q&A session from the 2pm session is posted below as some of the questions were different between the two sessions.

We are currently building a Q&A module for the site, where some of the questions and answers from the session will be included and that residents can use to ask questions throughout the project moving forward. We hope to have this feature launched soon.

We would like to thank everyone who joined us on October 29th. For those who were unable to attend, we hope you will find the video file informational.

Full Presentations and Q&A Session (7pm Session):

2:00PM Question and Answer Session:


GENERAL OVERVIEW / BACKGROUND:

The RDEK has debris flow mitigation infrastructure on both Fairmont Creek and Cold Spring Creek in Fairmont. They are regularly inspected and maintained as needed.

In 2018, the RDEK completed a multi-phase mitigation project on Fairmont Creek. Debris flow mitigation on Cold Spring Creek was identified as a priority project by the RDEK Board in its 2019/2020 Strategic Plan.

In October 2019, the RDEK applied for $750,000 in funding from the Union of BC Municipalities Community Emergency Preparedness Fund Structural Flood Mitigation Program for a debris flow mitigation project on Cold Spring Creek. The funding was awarded in March 2020. $150,000 in reserves were added to the project to bring the budget to $900,000.

The engineering contract was awarded to McElhanney on May 29, 2020. As part McElhanney’s proposal, they partnered with Dr. Mattias Jakob of BCG Engineering to update the hazard assessment for Cold Spring Creek, which he presented to the Board on October 1. The assessment determined that previous studies underestimated the potential for damaging debris flows. As a result, the RDEK has taken immediate action to widen the scope of the Cold Spring Creek project. The consultants have completed a conceptual design for a debris flow containment net that could collect approximately 20,000 cubic metres of debris. The total cost for this phase is now estimated to be $1.375 million.

On October 2, 2020 the RDEK Board approved $275,000 in new Community Works funding and the re-allocation of $200,000 that was previously approved for the Swansea Road watermain project to ensure funding is in place and Phase 1 can be completed.

The assessment report can be found under the Documents section on this project page. This assessment is quite different from the previous assessment that was competed in 2015 and shows that the hazard has been understated in the past.

The mitigation on Cold Spring Creek will be completed in several phases. The design for Phase 1 is currently underway with construction expected to occur in 2021. Future phase(s) will occur as funding becomes available and we are actively pursuing funding opportunities.

For more information on Fairmont debris flow mitigation, please contact Kara Zandbergen at kzandbergen@rdek.bc.ca or 1-888-478-7335 in our Cranbrook RDEK office.

Q&A

If you have a question about the Cold Spring Creek Debris Flow Mitigation Project, ask it below!  Answers are published on this page and you can scroll through the list to check out the questions and answers that have been submitted to date.

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    Can you post the Fairmont Flood and Landslide Service Establishment Bylaw No. 1208, 1996 for reference to bylaw 3047

    Harlin asked about 1 month ago

    We have created a Bylaws folder in the DOCUMENTS section on this project page and have loaded the service establishment bylaw there.  The direct link is HERE.

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    Why can we not have the whole Area F contribute to this massive tax hike? Putting this tax hike on such a small area will make it too expensive for people to be able to afford to live in Fairmont. I don't like the fact you have used a loophole to put this tax through without going to the residents first. How many reports over the years have been done on Cold Spring Creek? The previous report was nothing like this new report how do you know for sure the new report is accurate? How do you know if the company doing the report is saying this just to drum up business? Will, there be another report as you seem to have 2 reports with different views on what could happen. This is such a massive amount of money to be spent I think this needs to be looked into more. You need to get out there and inform the community what exactly is going on, cause a lot of people I have talked to know nothing. Not everyone reads flyers that come in the mail.

    Emily asked 27 days ago

    Service areas are established under Provincial legislation in the Local Government Act.  The boundary of a service area is defined upon establishment or amendment of the service area bylaw and includes the properties that receive benefit from the service.  Every dollar collected in the service is used for operations, capital and reserves of the service only and any surplus stays with the service until utilized.  The proposed tax increase cannot be shared among all properties of Electoral Area F because the properties outside of the Fairmont Flood and Landslide Boundary will not receive benefit from the service.  If the service area was changed to all of Electoral Area F, the scope of the service area would also change and Fairmont properties would be taxed for flood and debris expenditures throughout Area F not just those within the community of Fairmont.  

    A handful of reports have been completed on Cold Spring over the years. The hazard assessment that was completed by BGC Engineering in September 2020 is by far the most in depth assessment that has been completed to date. It was extremely thorough and used a combination of techniques to reinforce the conclusions. BGC is arguably the leading firm for both alluvial fan hazard studies and quantitative landslide risk assessments in Canada and have won national and international awards for their work. Their staff have conducted many such assessments in Canada and other nations and have published numerous papers on the subject in journals and conference proceedings. Dr. Jakob, P.Geo. (BC/AB), LG (WA), who was the project lead with BGC for these assessments, is the lead editor of a book on debris flows published in 2005 and is currently lead editor of an updated volume on debris flows. He has worked on over one hundred debris flow and debris flood projects in British Columbia and around the world.  You are encouraged to do your own research on BGC Engineering and Dr. Matthias Jakob. 

    Every property owner in the service area was sent a direct letter in October outlining the current situation and laying out how and where information on the project will be posted so that they can ensure they are informed every step of the way.  It has also been posted on the project page. The public meeting in October was publicized in local media, sent via our email group, posted on posters throughout the community, recorded and posted on the project page for people who were not available to be able to watch at any time.  Due to COVID restrictions, we made special arrangements to have a space that could facilitate in-person attendance for those who may not have access to computers and streamed the meeting so that property owners living out of area could participate. Regular updates are provided to our email group and posted on the project page. The March newsletter was sent to over 660 mailboxes in Fairmont, shared via our email group, shared with the Fairmont Community Association, and posted on the project page. There will be another community meeting in late April or early May once we have some additional information finalized and the details of the meeting will also be advertised, posted on our project page, sent to our Fairmont email group, sent to property owners, shared with the Community Association, and posted in the community. The project page also has an FAQ tool for questions specific to the project and the contact information for both Director Clovechok and the project lead Kara Zandbergen are provided there.  

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    Has been confirmed - original owner of the FHS Resort sent crews up regularly on the creeks to cut away potential blockages to avoid debris flow damages. No damages were encountered until after the new owners. This history has proven results. Suggest this maintenance work be continued based on its past effect and cost.

    Koz asked 3 months ago

    The former owners of the FHSR removed windfall from the creeks up to the ski hill and cleared debris from the ski hill intake when it filled up. Creek maintenance was not performed upstream of the ski hill. Large amounts of debris were not removed from the creekbeds as would be required to meaningfully reduce the debris flow frequency, intensity, runout or damage on the Cold Spring Creek or Fairmont Creek fans.

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    . The report indicates the assessment may affect future development and encumbrances on title. How does that affect sales, value, insurance, current properties and perception of the community?

    3 months ago

    We cannot comment on questions related to property values or other impacts such as the price of home insurance, as there are many variables outside of the control of RDEK that determine those factors.  You should direct your inquiries to your insurance provider or a property assessor as appropriate.  The goal of this project is to increase community safety and minimize the potential impacts of future events. In that regard, having infrastructure in place to mitigate potential risk, is an important part of community safety and public perception.  

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    When we go to a vote, how are votes collected? By title? By acreage? How are votes evaluated? What about unsold lots owned by the Resort? How about the condos and timeshares?

    3 months ago

    The details of the elector assent process have not yet been finalized. Once these details are known, they will be shared with the community and a public information meeting will be scheduled.

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    Table E-2 observations indicate if clearing of the creeks took place as previously done it would mitigate hazards lower down, why is that not the priority action to take? Clear the debris and it won’t avulse.

    3 months ago

    Table E-2 in the Hazard Assessment Report summarized the key findings of the assessment but does not discuss clearing debris from the upper reaches of the creeks.  Clearing debris from the upper creeks to the degree that it would reduce the hazard to an acceptable level is not recommended. There are a number of debris sources in the upper watersheds of both creeks and would require developing an extensive network of access roads in steep and challenging terrain. It would be very costly and the expense would need to be carried entirely by the service area as this type of work is not eligible for grants.

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    The BGC Hazard Assessment identifies the consequences of what can happen if debris is trapped and released, why does it not proactively address what can be done upstream to clear the debris before it is a hazard?

    3 months ago

    Clearing debris from the upper creeks to the degree that it would reduce the hazard to an acceptable level is not recommended. There are a number of debris sources in the upper watersheds of both creeks and would require developing an extensive network of access roads in steep and challenging terrain. It would be very costly and the expense would need to be carried entirely by the service area as this type of work is not eligible for grants.

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    It appears not all property owners in the service area received Brian Funke’s letter of October 5, 2020 and attachments, why would that be?

    3 months ago

    A total of 802 letters representing 1038 properties were mailed out to all property owners within the service area. We can’t speak to why individuals may not have received a letter (as there could be a host of reasons); however, we would encourage anyone who did not receive a letter to contact our office to ensure we have the correct address on file.  We have also now posted it on the project page in the Documents section.

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    We have seen culverts being replaced since the latest flooding in May 2020 on both CSC and Fairmont Creek, how much is that work expected to remediate the flooding?

    3 months ago

    Responsibility for sizing, replacement, maintenance and operations of culverts and roadways in unincorporated or rural areas of the RDEK falls under provincial jurisdiction – specifically, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI). 

    MOTI has installed additional culverts at some of the creek crossings as a short term solution to increase capacity for high flow events. The degree of flooding remediation due to this additional capacity has not been quantified. There is the potential for additional work in the future; however, we are not able to comment on the timing or nature of the work.

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    Would it not make more sense to re-establish the clearing of debris from the creeks upstream as was done for 50+ years by the resort rather than this reactive versus proactive plan?

    3 months ago

    The RDEK has discussed previous creek maintenance with the former owners of the Resort. While the Resort has removed windfall following storms and regular maintenance (such as clearing debris from their intake), it has been confirmed that there was no large scale debris removal from the upper creeks. 

    Clearing debris from the upper creeks to the degree that it would reduce the hazard to an acceptable level is not recommended. There are a number of debris sources in the upper watersheds of both creeks and would require developing an extensive network of access roads in steep and challenging terrain. It would be very costly and the expense would need to be carried entirely by the service area as this type of work is not eligible for grants.