Clean-up crews making progress at Fairmont
A massive clean-up effort remains underway in Fairmont Hot Springs as the magnitude of last Sunday’s debris flow is becoming clearer.
“The heavy rainfall on May 31 resulted in the second-largest debris flow in recorded history in Fairmont and an estimated 30,000m3 of logs, rock and other debris in our traps on Fairmont Creek and Cold Spring Creek,” explained Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) Engineering Services Manager Brian Funke. “This event is roughly half the size of the 2012 debris flow and could have been catastrophic had the new debris flow mitigation measures not been in place.”
In 2018, the RDEK completed a three-phase debris flow mitigation project on Fairmont Creek to create more capacity within the creek and debris traps to capture and hold debris in an event. While it was recognized that there was still the potential for water and mud to jump the creek banks in a large-scale event, the goal of the project was to increase public safety by limiting the potential for large amounts of rock, gravel and debris to end up in the community.
“Although this isn’t the first test of the debris traps, it is certainly the most significant and the system did an incredible job of keeping the large debris away from homes and properties,” added Funke. “While we never like to see any on-the-ground impacts, and we don’t want to minimize the impact on those affected property owners, this could have been so much worse.”
Impacts within the community include roads and culverts overtopped with mud and water; water in a few basements and a garage closest to Fairmont Creek; and, approximately six properties with mud and water in their yards. In addition, the Resort sustained impacts to its golf course and infrastructure, such as water intakes, as a result of the debris flow.
Contractors were on site by last Sunday evening and work has been underway ever since. By last Friday approximately 75% capacity had been regained in the Cold Spring Creek debris trap and crews continued to work in this area and on the lower Cold Spring Creek debris trap, channel and culvert through the weekend.
On Fairmont Creek, crews have completed the removal of logs and debris, restored the channel, and completed the berm and grading above Campground Road and at Marble Canyon. Thursday, work began on Hole 12 on the golf course with the removal of excavated material and slow, controlled dewatering of the pond. They continued to remove excavated material throughout the weekend to create additional capacity and will remain active in this location this week. Today, crews also worked on creating access into the uppermost debris traps on Fairmont Creek and began the debris removal process in this area.
Crews also worked this weekend on a section of creek near Riverview where the armouring and erosion protection was destroyed on May 31.
“Our priority is to restore as much capacity within the creeks and the debris traps as possible so that we are ready if another event were to occur,” adds Funke. “Having said that, we need residents to remain aware and prepared as both creek systems are still vulnerable to flooding, particularly now during the freshet season.”
To help residents protect their properties, a BC Wildfire crew pre-filled approximately 1000 sandbags Friday afternoon to help make it easier for the community to get sandbags in place proactively. Sandbags are located at the old barn at Mountainside Golf Course and on the pullout on Columbia River Road north of the creek.
The total project cost for the Fairmont Creek Debris Flow Mitigation Project was just over $1.94 million. It was 92% funded by Emergency Management BC, four per cent by Community Works Funds and four per cent by the community through the Fairmont Creek Flood & Debris Flow Control Service.
Earlier this year the RDEK received funding for a Debris Flood Mitigation Project on Cold Spring Creek. While that project has not yet started, the Board awarded the engineering contract to McElhaney at its May 29 board meeting.
Lead image: The Fairmont Creek uppermost debris traps June 8. Photos courtesy RDEK