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Clearing work continues top-to-bottom at FairmontPosted: July 17, 2012

Fairmont Hot Springs remains a busy place as emergency workers continue to clean up the mess from a July 15 flash flood and landslide.

Regional District of East Kootenay emergency communications officer Loree Duczek said workers face a massive challenge and must approach their task with a well-defined methodology.

“When the initial event occurred on Sunday afternoon, the debris torrent carved the channel as it moved downstream.  The debris has pushed water in numerous different directions and our main priority remains getting the original Fairmont Creek channel cleared of debris so that we can re-establish the channel and keep all the water flowing within it,” she said, adding, “This is a massive job and has to be done from the ‘bottom to the top.’

“The reason for this is that if you start cleaning out at the top of the debris field, you will open the channel and create more water flow. That increased water flow (which will still have sedimentation) will move downstream and hit the debris below – creating the potential for more damming and a repeat of the situation we’ve already seen where the pressure builds up and a large debris field lets go.  As soon as the area was deemed safe on Sunday night, we had a contractor on site beginning the work at the highway. They’ve been working all day from dawn to dark since and we are making progress in that lower level (they have cleared from the highway to the area near the Pond at the golf course).  This is going to take time, but we are working as quickly as we can,” Duczek outlined.

“Unfortunately, the water upstream continues to find its way around debris outside the creek channel and is constantly shifting and changing.  As it does that, it can lead to sudden and unpredictable changes in water patterns. Today near Marble Canyon, the bank eroded and the creek jumped its channel.  The bank in this area is crumbling, so we are working to install some rock reinforcement. This work will be completed this afternoon, and the water will be directed into a temporary control channel. This will address the water that is flowing through downstream neighbourhood at the moment,” she explained.

“We will also be keeping a smaller piece of equipment on standby to keep that section clean and keep water within the channel,” Duczek said.

The Ministry of Transportation has been doing regular monitoring of the culverts to ensure any debris that accumulates near culverts is removed to keep water flowing.

Above image: Onlookers take in the cleaning and searching activity along Fairmont Creek above the resort July 16.

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