Government Response To Newsome Creek Watershed

Government response to the problems in Newsome Creek have been both encouraging and difficult. At least three governmental bodies have a say in the creek, but they aren’t on the same page. This has been frustrating for property owners attempting to get clear information about how to deal with falling trees and personal safety, and about preventing further damage to the creek. Due to government inaction the problem has developed into an emergency that could have been avoided.

Columbia Shuswap Regional District

csrd buildingOn the positive side the CSRD has been quick to do what they can. Area C Director Paul Demenok has taken an active role in the issue meeting with residents numerous times since 2017. Director Demenok is presently helping by advocating, advising and networking on homeowners’ behalf.

The Shuswap Emergency Program also stepped up in their role to deliver assistance under Emergency Management British Columbia (EMBC). They secured funding for the geotechnical report and the danger trees report. When called upon they have provided information and were central in the Community Stakeholders Information Meeting held on October 18, 2018 in Sorrento.

Province Of British Columbia

On the difficult side the BC Government has responded only under an emergency management approach. At least two ministries are involved, but neither is taking responsibility or an active role to problem solve in the short or long term.

The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD), and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) are the main players. MoTI is responsible for the culverts at the crossings, while FLNRORD has jurisdiction between the crossings. They don’t appear to be coordinated in their approach, which is important since they both have a major effect on our watershed.

FLNRORD Regional Executive Director Gerry McDougall (on behalf of Minister Doug Donaldson) has made it clear FLNRORD is not willing to take a role in short or long term problem solving. When approached, by CSRD Area C Director Paul Demenok, FLNRORD pushed responsibility onto other governmental bodies, mainly EMBC. See FLNRORD’s letter in response to Director Demenok.

At the Community Stakeholders Information Meeting in October MoTI indicated they have plans to increase culvert sizes at the crossings. A requisition has gone into the queue, but it may take years to complete. The FLNRORD official didn’t seem to know anything about the culverts that MoTI are planning to install. Meanwhile property damage continues to occur in the gully below Highway 1.

To be fair to local BC government representatives they seem to want to help and have provided information within their scope when asked. However, the problem is up the ladder where officials who can help are not taking this issue seriously.

Department of Fisheries and Oceans

To make matters even more complicated the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) also has jurisdiction over Newsome Creek. They see it as salmon habitat even though the culverts at Dieppe Road and the TCH make it impossible for salmon to spawn in the creek. They have strict rules about what can and can’t be done in the creek. DFO did not attend the Community Stakeholders Information Meeting, but they have been out to the site to speak with some property owners. Anything that gets done in the creek to address property damages and watershed issues will have to go through DFO in some way.