REPORTING · 21st June 2011
In the Skeena flood year of 2007, Dutch Valley experienced a severe loss of property and damage. While the Regional District Kitimat Stikine (RDKS) was attempting to address all the threats to homes along the Skeena River, residents along the banks of the Kalum River at Dutch Valley were largely ignored. The Kalum River changed course and an impending disaster was unfolding.
There is a lot to explain about the lead up to today, a day when the final straw is about to fall upon the proverbial overloaded camel, at Dutch Valley. Aerial photographs, engineered drawings, after hundreds, perhaps thousands of hours of contemplation today dozens of acres of prime agricultural land has been lost and more than a dozen homes are threatened.
If it wasn’t so serious we could draw the attention of comedians to describe the actions and plans of the hired Regional District employees and their associated ‘Professional Engineer’ friends.
The Kalum River is rapidly changing its course. There is an imminent disaster in the making and it appears as if no one really cares.
Yesterday, June 20, highways crews arrived at Dutch Valley to build up the height of the road. For residents on the Kalum River side of this road what this appeared to be is an effort by the highways department to use highways material to construct a better dam, ensuring the rising flood waters of the Kalum River stayed on the west side. This in effect would resign at least three or four homes to be lost but saving eight others.
In 2008 and 2009 the RDKS addressed the Dutch Valley flooding as a major problem after numerous properties were flooded. The Provincial government finally released funds to construct an incredible mid property water detainment barrier. Engineers designed this project and hundreds of thousands of dollars were devoted to it. No reasonable person could have thought it was a good idea.
The flood waters of the Kalum River flow from North to South. The erosion of the banks of the Kalum began at the north end of Dutch Valley. The RDKS began their erosion protection project at the south end of Dutch Valley stopping less than half way due to money leaving the frontier zone completely unprotected.
Today the north end is eroding so fast, plugging the river so heavily with fallen trees and material eroded from the river banks, there is virtually no hope left for the residents of Dutch Valley. The likely course of the entire Kalum River is right through the center of Dutch valley and the homes to the west of the road are as good as doomed.
The funniest part of this Saturday Night Live style humour skit is the mid property erosion barrier will ensure the river wipes out everything in its path. The “dike” wasn’t built anywhere near the river and has had absolutely no impact on the direction of the river flow. The only potential impact is to ensure the raging river is contained within the threatened properties such that it will demolish all of them.
Maybe this is why the Highways department has decided to build up the height of the road. Those west of the road are certain to be sacrificed, those to the east might (with a big “M”) have a chance. This is exactly what James Wold believes. As much as he doesn’t want to admit it, after he constructed his RV and boat storage facility (against the support and approval of the RDKS), they have completely ignored any proper attempts to protect his property from the Kalum River flood waters.
Starting at the very south end of Dutch Valley, after various engineer studies, the RDKS began constructing an erosion protection dike through un-flooded land. Today this berm of rock sits dozens of meters away from the river in the middle of a grove of trees. The Comedian gets to pipe in at this point as he describes how it stops in the middle of nowhere, protecting nothing. A roadway of rock with no purpose, no destination.
The north end of this erosion zone has been decimated. Ten, twenty, thirty acres of great farm land has been lost. There is no way to tell exactly how much actually, it has disappeared down the Kalum River.
The Kalum River is now cutting a path directly into the middle of Dutch Valley. Nothing other then a huge rip rock dam construction project will stop it.
During the next flood it will hit the roadway that the highways department is hurrying to buttress by building the height. This is a fool’s game. Nothing much can stop the Kalum River now if the RDKS doesn’t rush in with excavators, trucks and loads of rock from the quarry across the river at Kitsumkalum.
The river will, by the time the next flood waters arrive, head straight across the field of the beautiful farmland, wiping out the cattle grazing lands, leaving James Wold, (the thorn in the RDKS’s side for bringing this dilemma to their attention), on an island.
The River will then, if it doesn’t wipe out the road completely, leave Kent Goddard with waterfront property as the Kalum River rages past his front door.
The RDKS and their hired engineers are to blame for all of this impending disaster and it almost appears as if the Highways Department knows this (who couldn’t) and is building up the road as a dike to protect what they can of the properties on the east side of Dutch Valley.
Wold refuses to accept his fate was conspired by the RDKS after he declined to accept their rulings on constructing and living on his property. Another might look at this 4 year history and determine the RDKS purposefully refused to address his legitimate concerns and in the end have sacrificed an entire community. See the 2009 flooding and problems here**
The Kalum River is cutting out huge swathes of land and will most certainly move further to the left in this photo.
This is the mega dollar RDKS errosion construction project. See the River. This was obviously engineered by a professional.
The red circle on the lower left is all river today, eroding in the direction of the red arrow. In all likelyhood the river will rejoin at the location where the picture says "Start of Dike".
Comment by MaggieJo on 2nd July 2011
I suspect most of the Valley residents assumed their properties via family members who handed it down thru the ages. What kind of a Community are we where we refuse to offer assistance because they should have known better?!
Shall we take it further? My young daughter wishes to give her birthday money "to the poor, Mommy". Perhaps I should tell her the poor got themselves into their own situations so screw them. Perhaps she could spread the word amongst her classmates when they collect goods for the food bank. And when a snowmobiler dies, why should we even console the family, cuz the sledder should'a known better anyway? And when a house burns down and people lack insurance, why help them...they should'a known better. And when I have clothing items to give away...why should I give it to charity when I could sell it at a local garage sale and keep the extra $ to myself. And when the neighbor loses his job and his family is suffering - well, maybe he should'a secured better education and obtained a "real" job. Why should I be guilted into helping his family when he should'a known better. When a friend or Colleague is sticken with cancer why should I help them? They should'a eaten more BROCCOLI!
See my point? Wouldn't be a very nice Community with people hosting attitudes like this, now would it?
Dutch Valley residents are suffering. Can we knock it off with the judgements and if even in the very least... offer our verbal support.
Me thinks rick was being sarcastic
Comment by Jim on 28th June 2011
Of course we help out our nieghbours when facing this type of disaster, and in the case of dutch valley it was completely forseeable and preventable. This is simply a case of our leaders failing absolutly. and it is not funny at all
Comment by James Wold on 28th June 2011
Human stupidity- is when you think before you put your foot in your mouth.
Rick Smith should run for office , as he would fit right in.
Same goes for most of Terrace
Comment by Rick Smith on 28th June 2011
Why should any government funding be used to assist people living below the benches. It is completely obvious to anyone with eyes to see that the real high water mark is evidenced by looking at the erosion. Even the rail company built as close as the could to these banks. Everything south of the tracks should be left to destruction. Why the city still issues permits to build there is curious. Just like rudi says, it is obvious the river will eventually come through the most of that area.
Just where do we draw the line at assisting a community, when there is only a dozen or two homes we can ignore it?
Comment by Rudi Peters on 28th June 2011
Why does anyone who has built in the Kalum river bed think that we as tax payers should now come to their aid and redirect the river that was there before they started to build there? Anyone with the intelligence of a squirrel knows that river overflows its banks and will redirect itself on a regular basis, why would you be dumb enough to build on a river bottom? This would be one of those natural consequences of ones actions, next time you build stop and take your surroundings into consideration, you will have less troubles.
Comment by James Wold on 27th June 2011
Nice to hear a response from you, I am not a hero and do not want to be one. I feel that I have protected my property the best I can with my limited resources. I have been involved in this flooding problem to get protection for my neighbors.
The construction of my building on my property has nothing to do with the flooding problem other than to show everyone the disaster which is unfolding down here. If you were up to date on the building you would know that the issue was settled years ago to the satisfaction of the Regional District. I was informed by Andrew Weber at that time that I was only the second " legal " storage shed out of all the sheds in the Regional District. To my knowledge no one has been put through the ringer as I was.
As for the 3 projects picked out of 5 projects that were suppose to be the most urgent, ours was not picked because you felt you needed the Queensway project to insure your reelection in the up and coming election. As for our area board director Allan Lancott he refuses to come and view the site and help us with the problem? What does he do to justify his wages? The "big' problem is not the river it is the Regional District. Do not speak to me about the truth Les, with a forked tongue .
Les if you are interested in the flooding feel free to come over any time to see with your own eyes what we are dealing with. Thank-you Jim
Comment by les watmough on 26th June 2011
Here needs to be a response to all of this from a person, me, who was there when most of this happened. Mr Wold has been made a hero in this situation, in fact he was told by the RD and the Agricultural land reserve that he was NOT to do any more work on his property, so he went straight home and built MORE structures on that property.
After the big flood the RD begged the Province to do a FLOOD control PLAN from the Skeena Bridge down to New Remo, then the RD and the Province could work together and fix the thing.
I swear to this (and the records are there) that ONE YEAR later they sent a list of 5 projects and TOLD US (the RD) to PICK 3 for them to fund. No flood plan! Just pick 3 out of five and to hell with Dutch Valley. James Wold knew all this, well at least he was told, by me, at the RD meeting about this.
The engineers that did the dyke work in Dutch Valley were told by the staff and directors of the RD that the proposed dyking was likely to fail.
Just thought I would like to inject a little truth into the conversation. Les Watmough, (ignored member of the ignored Regional District, Les Watmough.)
Comment by MaggieJo on 21st June 2011
Thanks for this story. My older teen'ed son forfeited his plans for this afternoon and went out to help in the Valley.
other half of the story
Comment by rod on 21st June 2011
It would be valuable to readers if individuals from the Regional District, Ministry of Transportation and professional engineers, could be interviewed so we could hear their side of the story. Public protection of private property is an important issue, so objectivity should be given a higher priority in this article. Could you add the other half of the story, please? I, for one, would like to read a balanced perspective on this important issue. Thanks!
Comment by hazel on 21st June 2011
who ever planned the work on the kalum river in dutch valley,sure did not know a thing about fixing the problem,even the men doing the work new it was wrong.to start on the south end,and never finished the job,,had to go to Queens way,and spend thousands of more money there,why build the top of hampton,it is never going to flood there get on the river,why will the fishers,not clean out that little creek,where hundreds of fish die ever year when it dries up in aug, you used to be able to catch alot of fish there.
living by Choice
Comment by Squamish Res on 21st June 2011
I have lived on and near coastal rivers and I also knew the risks of owning property in the flood plain of a coastal river.
By nature these rivers change course, rise and fall, and trees and debris jam up and can divert the river very quickly.
Is it really up to taxpayers and gov't funding to create artificial barriers, diversions, dams, dikes, and ditches, to "try" to constrain mother nature. Is it not an assumption that this is going to be a problem that will most likely happen and by purchasing a home or property in these high risk areas you are assuming this risk.?
The main culprit that has created the flash flooding, and the excess debris from slides in the rivers is the logging in the watersheds which has created slides from road building, lack of water retention in the forests etc.
If anyone should "pay" for river rehabilitation it should be the logging companies that benefited from the harvest of timber in the watershed.