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Opinion: 5 Creeks Project – ‘We cannot afford to get it wrong’

Residents on Westmount Road were sandbagged on December 24 to protect their properties from flooding. When Five Creeks’ flood defense system is complete, will it do its job, this letter writer wonders.

Dear editor:

Has the Five Creeks Flood Defense Project Caused Flooding in West Vancouver?

Early on Christmas Eve, as it began to rain and the snow melted, water poured from the openings of two large pipes that are part of the Five Creeks flood control project. The floodwaters, which originated in the areas above the Upper Levels Highway, spilled onto Westmount Road and neighboring farms, carrying loads of gravel and debris. Paramedics were called and the road closed. Area residents spent much of the day stacking sandbags and shoveling gravel to form levees to protect their property.

The problem appeared to be that the two large tubes were not yet connected to the Five Creeks project mainline and the entry points to these tubes, which are located above the highway, had not been properly secured.

This breach appeared to affect Cave Creek as well, as silt, fine sediments, and possibly construction debris were allowed to enter the creek, significantly affecting water quality. A similar outage had already caused extreme cloudiness in Cave Creek on October 26 due to overnight rain.

The district has so far remained silent on the matter.

Why do these violations occur? The state permit for the Five Creeks project contains strict requirements that serve the purpose of protecting property and the environment. Are these conditions met? Are they taken seriously? Have there been cost savings elsewhere (eg environmental and safety precautions) due to problems and delays in the project?

The Five Creeks project, co-funded by the District of West Vancouver, is being led by a private developer and his team. There is a need to facilitate the clearing and development of their land above the highway, including the proposed Cypress Village. Over the years, the project has suffered a series of false starts, design issues and setbacks, leading local residents to wonder if this quasi-P3 [public-private partnership] whether the process is working or whether it has resulted in wrong approach and problematic execution and poor environmental protection.

The significant problems that have plagued the Five Creeks project do not inspire confidence in the project as a whole or in future development/overdevelopment upstream of the highway. As deforestation continues in the highlands, which can result in runoff five to ten times higher than in the natural state, we can’t afford to go wrong.

Therese Reinsch

Westmount, West Vancouver

Editor’s Note: A spokesman for the West Vancouver District had the following to say about the incident. “West Vancouver District received significant amounts of rainfall on December 23rd and 24th. These rain events occurred immediately after a 12-inch (30 cm) snowfall and freezing temperatures that resulted in snow and ice blockages in the storm drains along the 3300 block of Westmount Road. During the storm event alone, county rain gauges recorded over 100mm of precipitation. Unfortunately, the combined factors of significant snow, snowmelt and rain, as well as increased creeks, overwhelmed the existing drainage systems and stormwater entered the unfinished Five Creeks flood control system, causing flooding on some adjacent properties on Westmount Road.”

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