RDEK deserves an award for flood response, board says

The emergency response to the East Kootenay's June flooding event has been submitted for the 2013 UBCM Community Excellence Awards.

The emergency response to the East Kootenay’s June flooding event has been submitted for consideration in the 2013 Union of B.C. Municipalities Community Excellence Awards.

The Regional District of East Kootenay sprung to action June 20 when heavy rainfall caused creeks, rivers and lakes all over the region to rise at alarming rates.

By June 25, a state of emergency was declared in all four subregions of the East Kootenay, an unprecedented response by the emergency program.

At the July 5 board meeting, regional district directors agreed to nominate its emergency program’s response to the flood event for the award.

According to UBCM, its community excellence awards program “is an opportunity to showcase municipalities and regional districts who “lead the pack”, take risks to innovate, establish new partnerships, question established ways of doing business and pioneer new customer service practices.

At the board meeting, the directors were full of gratitude for the hard work and long hours that regional district staff put in during the days of the flood. Many of the directors reserved special thanks for information officer Loree Duczek, who put out daily updates on the flood situation around the region while also responding to flood issues on the spot.

“It’s a well oiled machine and it works very well. I was honoured and proud to have them on my side. Loree is like a mother hen – there are no gaps, she chases those chickens around pretty good,” said Area A Director Mike Sosnowski.

“I’m sure Loree must be a triplet,” said Elkford director Dean McKerracher.

“Loree was quite impressive with her ability to inform me quickly and often and in the middle of the night sometimes. I really don’t know how she sleeps,” added Area F Director Wendy Booth.

Area E Director Jane Walter congratulated the entire staff for their response.

“I would like to thank the staff for (their work) during the second season of flooding in Wasa. They have continued to show such great understanding and compassion to all of the people of Wasa and the area,” she said.

Board chair Rob Gay said the regional district will now begin to examine what can be done differently in future emergency operations.

“Debriefing is ongoing and recommendations regarding the use of human resources will come to the board this fall. There are some ideas that (Chief Administrative Officer) Lee-Ann (Crane) has been sharing with me and I think the board will be interested in hearing that. A lot of this is on the back of one or two people and you can’t go to war like that, you need to spread your resources out,” he said.

“We just can’t say, well, the water has gone down, and walk away from it. There are things that need to be done and many of them are going to cost lots of dollars and probably will change our priorities as we move forward.”

In April, the board heard the results of a report it commissioned on flood hazards in the region by Vancouver applied earth sciences company BGC Engineering.

The report found that $2.4 billion worth of buildings in the East Kootenay lie in flood hazard areas.

Most of the flood hazard areas are outside of municipalities, the study found. Area A – around Fernie and Sparwood – has the highest priority rating; followed by Area F – between Canal Flats and Invermere; then Area C – around Cranbrook; Area E – Wasa and Skookumchuck; Area G – north of Radium; and finally Area B – around Koocanusa.

Within municipalities, Fernie has the highest rating, followed by Elkford and Canal Flats, then Invermere, Radium Hot Springs, and finally Cranbrook, Kimberley and Sparwood.

The flood hazard study was prepared using existing data as the first step towards a comprehensive regional flood management plan.

The RDEK board of directors have not yet approved funding for the next steps of the plan.