Johnsons Landing residents aren’t giving up.
They have just submitted yet another grant application to fund the construction of a new water system, nearly four years after a massive landslide destroyed homes and took four lives in the community.
The Gar Creek Water Users’ Association has applied for $180,000 from the New Build Canada – Small Communities fund to finish building the planned water system that the Interior Health Authority approved in 2014.
The July 2012 mudslide destroyed the community’s water intake in Gar Creek. They have not been able to repair it because it is located inside a provincial government-declared evacuation zone, and no one will fund work to be done in such a hazardous location. And the Interior Health Authority has determined that drinking water from the pre-slide source would be unsafe because of turbidity.
So the residents of fourteen dwellings have been routinely venturing into a restricted area to get water from a temporary source. If they are going to stay in Johnsons Landing, they have no choice.
The new system, if it gets funding, would move their water intake out of the hazard zone to a new intake 1,600 metres up the mountain. The funding decision will be made in the fall.
The Regional District of Central Kootenay director for the area, Aimee Watson, says it should not be a conversation about a water system.
“It needs to be seen as an ongoing disaster,” she says. “The disaster has not ended. Trying to help people in a disaster is what we [at the RDCK] have been trying to do, and four years out we have not got help for them.”
The provincial government, Columbia Basin Trust, provincial disaster fund assistance, regional district Area D, and private donations have funded work done until now, including the creating of the new water system plan. The group has $100,000 from the federal government that can’t be spent unless the whole projects finds funding.
Several provincial government ministries have refused to fund the project, stating that they don’t fund water systems, especially in hazard zones.
Watson says their funding criteria are too restrictive.
“Fitting them in a box has never worked. I have had provincial government people tell me they (the residents) should move. I am horrified they would say that, because even those who have decided to sell are looking at a 60 per cent reduction in property value.”
The total budget for the project is $310,000. The group already has $100,000 from the federal government, which won’t allow them to spend it unless they can find funding for the whole project.
(CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said the landslide took three lives.)