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Letter: Five Creeks Project – 'We cannot afford to get it wrong'

Westmount Road area residents sandbagged to protect their properties from floodwaters, Dec. 24. When completed, will the Five Creeks flood protection system do its job, this letter writer wonders

Dear Editor:

Did the Five Creeks Flood Protection Project cause flooding in West Vancouver?

Early on Christmas Eve morning, as the rain began to fall and the snow melt, water gushed from the openings of two large pipes that form part of the Five Creeks Flood Protection Project. The floodwater, originating in the lands above the Upper Levels Highway, surged out onto Westmount Road and into neighbouring yards, carrying loads of gravel and debris with it. Emergency services were called and the road was closed. Area residents spent much of the day stacking sandbags and shovelling gravel to form levees in an attempt to protect their properties.

The problem, it appears, was that the two large pipes had not yet been connected to the Five Creeks Project’s main line and that entry points to these pipes, located above the highway, had not been properly secured.

This breach also appeared to impact Cave Creek as silt, fine sediment, and possibly construction residue, was allowed to enter into the creek significantly impacting water quality. A similar failure had already caused extreme turbidity in Cave Creek on Oct. 26, the result of overnight rain.

So far, the district has remained silent on the issue.

Why are these breaches occurring? The provincial approval for the Five Creeks Project contains strict conditions that serve to protect property and the environment. Are these conditions being followed? Are they being taken seriously? Have problems and delays with the project made it necessary to cut costs elsewhere (e.g. environmental and safety precautions)?

The Five Creeks Project, co-funded by the District of West Vancouver, is being led by a private developer and their team. It is required 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 area residents to wonder whether this quasi-P3 [public-private partnership] process is working, or whether it has led to the wrong approach and a troubled execution, as well as poor environmental protections.

The significant problems that have plagued the Five Creeks Project do not inspire confidence in the project as a whole, or for the future development/overdevelopment above the highway. With clearing continuing on the Upper Lands, which can result in runoffs five to 10 times greater than in the natural state, we cannot afford to get it wrong.

Therese Reinsch
Westmount, West Vancouver

Editor’s note: A District of West Vancouver spokesperson had this to say about the incident. “District West Vancouver received significant amounts of rainfall on Dec. 23 and 24. These rain events occurred immediately following a 30 cm snowfall and freezing temperatures, which caused snow and ice blockages on storm drains along the 3300 block of Westmount Road. District rain gauges recorded over 100 mm of rainfall alone during the storm event. Unfortunately, the combined factors of significant snow, snowmelt and rainfall, and increased creek flows overwhelmed the drainage systems in place, and stormwater entered the unfinished Five Creeks flood protection system, which led to flooding in some adjacent properties on Westmount Road.”

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