By Laura Keil
Nearly 40 properties downstream of an active landslide in the Swift Creek watershed were put on evacuation alert Sat. July 31st, as the slide continued to slough and grow in size. The evacuation alert meant residents had to prepare to leave their property in case an evacuation order was made and was still in effect as of presstime Tuesday (visit our website for breaking news).
The 13-unit Golden Year’s Lodge seniors residence was one of the properties affected by the alert.
Valemount Senior Citizen’s Housing president Mary Anne Watt told the Goat on Sunday Aug. 1st that she had been on site and ensured all seniors were notified. They also took note of how many seniors were currently home and not on holidays.
Watt said if an evacuation order is made, most seniors have a vehicle, and those who didn’t were making plans.
“They’ve all been given notice that they should pack a bag, and they all have,” she said, adding that most seniors have a place to go should an evacuation order be made, and any seniors in need could wait at the Legion while they organize accommodations.
The active landslide is roughly three kilometers upstream in the Swift Creek drainage from the Village of Valemount northerly boundary and some 500m from the Swift Creek suspension bridge on the popular Swift Creek trail.
The base of the landslide was approx. 200m from the creek as of presstime.
Village CAO Wayne Robinson said geotechnical engineers were on site over the weekend, and the Village was awaiting their report. The slide was initially noticed July 20th, and continued to be active with another major slide July 29th.
On July 30th, Robinson and staff did another fly-by of the slide with a geomorphologist.
“We saw a fairly large mass of land coming down,” he told the Goat the next day. “Throughout the day, we could see it starting to progress further and further down the hill.”
“We got up top and noticed that there’s some further fractures in that burnt area, even closer to where those stands and mature trees are,” he said. “So it does appear that there’s more land up there at least able to move. Whether or not it is moving is something that we’ll need to determine (with the geotechs).”
In the meantime, the Village is actively monitoring the creek water and the slide for any changes that could affect the Village’s drinking water supply. The Village put out a warning for residents to consider alternative water sources in the event the water system is compromised and enacted Stage 3 Water Restrictions August 2nd, limiting households to 2-days per week watering by sprinkler or irrigation system (even numbered addresses on Wednesdays and Saturdays, odd numbered addresses on Thursdays and Sundays, between 7-10am and 7-10pm). Micro-irrigation systems and hand watering are allowed, but residents cannot fill a swimming pool, fountain or pond, or wash a vehicle and bulk water sales may be restricted at the discretion of Village staff.
Robinson said earlier this week that they have not cut off Trans Mountain camp, which relies on the Village’s bulk water for its fresh water supply, but could do so immediately if the water system were compromised.
The Village of Valemount and Regional District of Fraser-Fort George say they have established a joint Emergency Operations Centre and are advising the public to avoid the area. No bike trails or roads are beneath it, but the Village has closed the entire Swift Creek trail and any trail leading to the swift creek trail bridge, as a precaution due to the debris that has moved down the slope.
As of presstime Monday, an evacuation alert was in effect for all properties on the Northeast side of Main Street beginning at William Road, and extending beyond the Swift Creek bridge to the end of Main Street in Electoral Area H of the Regional District (see map).
A press release says conditions may unexpectedly change and make it necessary for an immediate evacuation to ensure the safety of residents and frontline responders.
“You are asked to prepare yourself in the event that an evacuation is required and immediately take the following actions to help prevent damage to your home, property and to prepare for your personal safety:
• make arrangements for pets and livestock to be moved to safe locations;
• move equipment and farm implements to higher ground;
• gather important papers in water-tight containers and move valuables to alternate locations
• prepare a 72-hour personal survival kit for you and your family.”
The Village said last weekend that Trans Mountain provided a 24-hr security team to monitor the creek flow at the Swift Creek bridge on Main Street (near the weir).
Residents living within the Village of Valemount can sign up for emergency alerts at valemount.ca/services/emergency-preparedness
Residents living outside the Village of Valemount can sign up for alerts from the Regional District at https://rdffg.connectrocket.com
You can also sign up for free breaking news alerts via email, by emailing the Goat at [email protected]