North Cowichan cancels evacuation alert for properties near Chemainus River

North Cowichan cancels evacuation alert for properties near Chemainus River
Oli Herrera/CHEK News
An evacuation alert was cancelled after the Chemainus River levels receded on Dec. 28, 2022.

The evacuation alert for properties near the Chemainus River has been cancelled by North Cowichan and residents are in the midst of cleaning up, but they say more preventative measures are needed.

The BC River Forecast Centre estimates that between 70 to 350 millimetres of rain fell on the area since last Friday, prompting increased patrols from the province to check roadway conditions.

The alert ended as of 11 a.m. after river levels receded. Some properties near the river were issued the alert after heavy rain, snow melt, and king tide events led to localized flooding near Pinson’s Corner.

The municipality says that no injuries or significant damage were reported. The town’s mayor, Rob Douglas, congratulated the efforts of first responders during the past week.

READ MORE FROM DEC. 27: Evacuation alert extended in North Cowichan due to flood watch

Scott Bennett has lived in North Cowichan for more than a decade. Yearly floods are no stranger to him and he’s made sure to help his neighbours whenever he can, but he says help is needed from the municipality when it comes to cleaning up the Chemainus River.

“We have to do something. Sandbags are not going to solve it all, it doesn’t solve it, it just prevents it,” said Bennett.

This year’s flood was nowhere near as devastating to Bennett’s property as it was last year, but now is dealing with gravel and garbage washed up from the river.

“There’s gravel to no end, it keeps washing down from upstream and we get the brunt of it,” said the farmer.

The river has faced issues of excess gravel from record-low rainfall and erosion, preventing salmon from spawning. A problem that local residents have voiced before.

“If we can get some of this gravel off the river and keep it in its natural channel, we’re not gonna have bank erosion, the flooding like we have,” said Don Allingham, a farmer who’s field was flooded.

Allingham estimates that the river has risen over the past decades, swallowing at least 20 feet of his property.

READ MORE: Neighbours plead for help to save Chemainus River and salmon ‘choked with gravel right now’

Douglas says sediment removal efforts were taken this past fall, with some gravel removal completed on the Chemainus River. While it was a good start according to him, he wants more help from the province.

“It’s going to be the senior levels of government, particularly the provincial government, that are going to have to continue and invest these long-term solutions,” said Douglas.

In the summer, North Cowichan began developing a new 200-year floodplain map which would assist property owners to better prepare their homes during flood events.

According to the municipality, the model would be used to determine better preventative solutions, including gravel digging.

The River Forecast Centre has lifted flood watch alerts that had been in place for most of the Island.

A high streamflow advisory remains in place for the Lower Fraser River.

Oli HerreraOli Herrera

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