Elk River Solutions Symposium a success

Participants had a sneak peek into the Elk River Flood Strategy’s current research to support better decision making.

Forty people participated in the Solutions Symposium on flooding in the Elk River Watershed on Apr. 12 at the Arts Station in Fernie to be better prepared for the upcoming flood season and to learn ways to reduce flood risks and promote innovative flood mitigation solutions.

“Spring is such a hopeful time – flowers blooming, birds singing, and life returning. With these hot temperatures melting snow and the imminent monsoon June, floods are not far from our conscience,” said Lee-Anne Walker, Symposium organizer and coordinator of the Elk River Flood Strategy.

After the 2013 flood, a group of Elk Valley local government officials and staff, industry representatives and community members met and reached consensus that we needed to better understand the current and future conditions of the Elk River in order to develop a holistic flood strategy protecting residents and community infrastructure as well as watershed function and wildlife.  This initial meeting sparked a three year process coordinated by the Elk River Alliance with funding from Regional District of East Kootenay, Columbia Basin Trust, Real Estate Foundation of BC, Teck and Mitacs in partnership with the University of Lethbridge.

“There is so much continuity driving this initiative as many of these same folks joined the Symposium to review the key findings of the Elk River Flood Strategy as were at the original meeting in July of 2013,” said Walker, who was also at the initial conversation.  “Representatives from the RDEK, Districts of Elkford and Sparwood, City of Fernie, Teck, as well as participants from Canadian Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fisheries Commission, Federation of BC Naturalists, Wildsight, Elk River Alliance and interested citizens waded into the waters together to learn about the river and discuss what we need to do moving forward”.

People attending wanted to be more prepared and look at different strategies to control and mitigate floods, supported by robust science and best management practices.  Participants wanted to better understand the effects of various flood mitigation strategies on downstream communities and ecosystems and how to resource flood solutions.

Participants had a sneak peek into the Elk River Flood Strategy’s current research to support better decision making.  A web-based visualization tool that helps people from Hosmer to Coal Creek see if they are in a flood hazard zone and floodplain and the depth of water innundation for various flood scenarios.  There are tips to keep people safe, help floodproof homes and why floods are important for fish.

“Mostly the Strategy increases our watershed-wide flood literacy and it is a tool to drive better decisions.  As we see from the research it is best to be proactive and prepared,” said Walker.  Look for the full report to be released at the end of May, just in time for peak freshet.