Submitted by Chiara Cipriano
Floods are the most costly natural disaster in Canada in terms of property damage, and the Elk Valley is not exempt from that.
Throughout the 20th Century, nine major floods inundated the Elk Valley, and despite the tens of millions of dollars that were invested after the 1995 flood, damage still occurred to infrastructure by rising waters again in 2013.
Climate modelers predict a future with increased flooding.
The Elk River Alliance (ERA) is gathering information and generating ideas for solutions in response to this concern.
“Options we are looking at will need to protect community residents and infrastructure first and foremost, as well as enhance resiliency in watershed function and protect wildlife habitat,” said Lee-Anne Walker, ERA Executive Director.
Goals of the Elk River Flood Solutions Strategy are:
1) Increase better understanding of Elk River hydrology.
2) Model future scenarios of flood frequency/severity and the effects on communities.
3) Analyze community flood preparedness and mitigation options.
4) Promote a watershed-wide approach to flood mitigation integrating government polices, industrial practices and community efforts.
5) Support decision makers to implement the best flood mitigation practices throughout the Elk River watershed.
6) Increase community watershed literacy on the past, current and future impacts of flooding.
The best option will include a combination of structural (i.e. dikes, rip rap, etc.) and non-structural or natural options. Preserving land adjacent to the river and limiting development in these floodplains can offset the expensive cost of building flood mitigation structures.
One tip for landowners by the river is to preserve any wetlands and vegetations between their homes and the river.
Cutting down cottonwoods and willows may open up a better view, but doing so exposes the banks to ongoing erosion.
“You can think of this vegetation as free flood insurance, soaking up and storing water like a giant sponge, slowly releasing it to the environment,” said Chiara Cipriano, ERA Community Outreach Educator. “The Elk River Alliance is currently collecting community feedback throughout a survey about flooding. Express your interest and concerns on our website www.elkriveralliance.ca to learn more and access survey, or like us on Facebook.”