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North Okanagan communities to safeguard against flood devastation

Work has commenced on a new creek crossing in Vernon, B.C., that, once complete, is expected to significantly reduce the risk of devastating floods in the area.

The critical infrastructure project will see the Vernon Creek crossing on 43rd Street replaced with a clear span bridge.

“This is the creek that empties Kal Lake and empties Swan Lake,” said Vernon Mayor Victor Cumming at a news conference at the current crossing Thursday morning.

“The two come together just above here and the volume of water hits this constricted historical crossing, creek crossing and water begins to back up because there’s more water than can flow underneath.”

The work also involves widening the creek channel.

The city was able to finally get the work started after receiving much-needed money from senior levels of government.

About half of the $4.4 million required for the project is coming from the provincial and federal governments.

“The key thing here is when small cities like ours try to replace a bridge, it’s expensive, very expensive and so when the federal government and the provincial government join us, covering about half the cost, it’s really critical,” Cumming said.

The creek crossing has posed some major problems during past spring freshet seasons, having repeatedly flooded the surrounding area impacting dozens of commercial and residential properties.

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“It currently impacts six residential roads and approximately 50 properties in this area,” Cumming said.

The area is also home to the city’s waste water treatment plant, which has been threatened in the past.

“Water begins to flow across that property and we have serious issues as does BC Transit right behind here, which is their main depot for their buses and industrial sites on the other side, ” Cumming said. “They have the exact same problem.”

But Vernon is not the only community receiving funding to shield itself against destructive flood events. Lumby is, too.

The small community has been very hard hit by flooding in recent years, causing millions o dollars in damage.

“Our entire downtown core is on a floodplain,” said Lumby Village councillor Randal Ostafichuk. “The previous flood that we had in 2017 almost shut down our only grocery store. That would have been a devastating blow to Lumby.”

The small community received just shy of $2 million, which will go towards dike systems totaling almost a kilometre along both Duteau and Bessette creeks.

“We’ve had several one and 200 year flood events just in the last 10 years alone, so everything we can do to help protect our residents and our businesses is significant,” Ostafichuk said.

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