By Sara Moulton
Wintery weather couldn’t ice celebrations for the completion of the West Fernie dike project along the Elk River on Friday, November 15.
MLA for East Kootenay, Bill Bennett, joined federal MP for Kootenay-Columbia, David Wilks, in visiting a section of the dike alongside the West Fernie bridge. Braving the elements during one of Fernie’s trademark snowstorms, Rob Gay and Mike Sosnowski of the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) spoke about the importance of the project, in particular following the devastating effects of floods throughout the region earlier in 2013.
“I can safely say that West Fernie is the best flood protected community in the Elk Valley at the completion of this project,” said Sosnowski. “I believe that, without this dike, Lower West Fernie would’ve been flooded this spring.”
The dike reinforces over 1,200 metres of the Elk River bank and has taken a total of five years to complete. Wilks and Bennett both acknowledged the efforts of RDEK in obtaining funding through various federal and provincial sources, and identified the work as a critical infrastructure project for the region.
“The federal government recognised the issue on the Elk River with erosion…it’s a project that’s really good for the people of the area,” explained Wilks.
The completion of the dike means that the door is now open for new projects to be considered, which Bennett hopes will lead to further upgrades within the Elk Valley. With a large number of proposals from other regions around British Columbia and across Canada, the two representatives are again preparing for the tough task of securing a share of the available government funding.
“This program is done, so now we have to renegotiate a new infrastructure program that will cover things such as flood mitigation, highway construction and all kinds of other public infrastructure,” said Bennett.