North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring said he’s frustrated that the Chemainus River overflowed its banks again during the heavy flooding in the area on Nov. 15.
Speaking to council on Nov. 17, Siebring said the largest impacts of the flooding in the municipality were felt on the Halalt First Nation lands and Russell Farm, both adjacent to the Chemainus River, when water overflowed the river banks after the record-breaking rainfall.
He pointed out that the Chemainus River falls under provincial and federal jurisdictions, and North Cowichan sent a letter to the province after the last major flood event on the river in 2020, which also flooded the same areas, warning that it would happen again.
Siebring said that while some assistance was provided from the senior levels of government after the last flood event, what was seen in the area after the heavy rains on Nov. 15 was a clear illustration that more needs to be done.
“I’ve talked to some families that farmed in that area decades ago and they told me that there used to be regularly scheduled maintenance in which the gravel bar in the river would be dredged to bring the bottom of the river back down, which means high-water levels didn’t easily overflow its banks,” Siebring said.
“We need that again. Right now, we’re facing these problems every few years and we have to move heaven and earth to get all the required approvals to do the work on a one-off basis only, and we have to ask for the same permissions and go through the same regulatory processes a few years later.”
Siebring said a more comprehensive strategy to deal with the flooding issues on the Chemainus River and other rivers in the municipality’s jurisdiction is needed.
“This is an ongoing issue and climate change is not getting any better,” he said.
“I look forward to having discussions with the senior levels of government on this issue in the coming weeks and months.”
But Siebring said North Cowichan saw less damage compared to the severe destruction seen in other parts of the province due to the rain and flood event, and acknowledged the intense pressure the provincial government will be facing in rebuilding in those areas.
“Our thoughts are with our provincial counterparts as they navigate these latest pressures, which come on top of a myriad of other crises including opioids, housing, the summer forest fires, and of course the ongoing COVID-19 situation,” he said.
“I also want to urge our community to not overreact [to the ongoing crisis related to the flooding], to be calm, and to stand together. There will be supply chain issues, but this is not the time to hoard. We have a good local supply of food. Check on your neighbours and share supplies with them as needed.”