Duhamel Creek residents worried for wrong reasons

Mr. Mickel cites the recent occurrence of damaging floods and landslides in the region this spring

Last Friday’s Star carried an article (“Mickel backs Six Mile residents”) featuring Area F director Ron Mickel expressing his concern regarding the risks to residents (homeowners, businesses, and schools) on the fan of Duhamel Creek associated with logging activities currently underway in the watershed. Mr. Mickel cites the recent occurrence of damaging floods and landslides in the region this spring as the justification for residents to be worried about the impact of slides in their watershed.

As the professional hired by Kalesnikoff to identify hydrogeomorphic risks in Duhamel Creek as part of their planning process I can understand the residents’ fear. There is no question that the West Kootenay region experiences a high frequency of hazardous events including floods, slides, debris flows and avalanches.

The devastation of Johnsons Landing last year is still fresh in everyone’s minds and floods associated with heavy spring rain-on-snowmelt caused extensive damage throughout the Kootenay region earlier this year.

What I think is unfortunate about the situation in Duhamel Creek is that hazards exist and residents should be concerned for their safety, but the hazard that warrants attention is flooding, not slides due to logging.

Duhamel Creek is an alluvial fan that has been built up over the last several millennia by the process of flooding. Natural slope breaks along Duhamel Creek channel effectively eliminate the risk of slides impacting the fan. However, floods large enough to take out bridges along Highway 3A and damage private structures occurred on Duhamel Creek in 1956 and 1974.

There is no question that floods of this magnitude will occur again. The questions that residents of Duhamel Creek need to focus on are: 1) What emergency plans are in place to ensure residents will be safe when a large flood event occurs? 2) What are the climatic conditions that are likely to trigger large magnitude, potentially damaging floods on Duhamel Creek; and 3) Is there a chance that logging activities could increase the frequency of these large damaging flood events?

The answer to this last question is no. The current levels of harvest are still very low (less than 15 per cent) and Duhamel Creek is an alpine-dominated system so that peak flows are driven mainly by snowmelt from upper elevations above the areas subject to timber harvesting.

Rather than taking the position of fear-mongers, provincial and regional authorities need to take leadership roles and initiate a program of hazard assessment and, most importantly, public education so that residents of the West Kootenay are knowledgeable about the hazards that exist in this area and have the necessary information to avoid becoming victims of these hazards.

Kim Green, PGeo, PhD Candidate

Apex Geoscience Consultants Ltd.

Nelson