UPDATE: South Canim Lake Road is now open to single-lane alternating traffic. Drive with caution.
Original Story: Flooding on South Canim Lake Road over the weekend left a trail of devastation in its wake.
The road was closed Sunday morning (April 30) between Newell Road and Lake Access 16 after it began to flood the previous evening.
While a detour is available for those on the other side of the flooded area on Mahood Road, it is not recommended for anyone driving a car.
Dawson Road Maintenance was on site Tuesday cleaning out the culvert, which was overwhelmed by the onslaught of water and was blocked off by rocks and debris. Their plan is to shore up the washed-out areas of the road in order to open it for single-lane alternating traffic.
Local residents said a combination of unseasonably warm temperatures and a changed landscape, following the wildfires in the area, overwhelmed existing infrastructure when the flood came.
With the hot day, snow in the mountains melted and the water came rushing down, said Valerie Sallenback whose property suffered the full force of the flood. It brought rocks and debris and there was nothing to hold it back.
While Sallenback stressed the flood was no one’s fault she noted that “We needed a bigger culvert years ago and it was never done,” as she showed the Free Press around her property on Monday.
Cariboo Regional District board chair and director for Area H (Forest Grove/Canim Lake) Margo Wagner agreed that no one was to blame.
Wagner said that forestry goes up after every fire and tries to put the land back to how it was and put the waterways back to where they need to go. The problem is the roads they put in are done quickly in an emergency. Trees are cut down as they try to get equipment and firefighters up to the fire, she said.
“When you’ve got D10s and D8s going up pushing roads through to get access to a fire, you’re not paying attention to the waterways. Your concern is to get firefighters and machinery up to the fires,” Wagner said. “But then afterward, when you have to mitigate it all, it’s really tough to figure out where the water might go.”
Water will always find the easiest way down and Wagner speculates this may be what happened here. The creek in question has been flowing to some degree all year long which is not typical and leads her to wonder if the water’s course did not get put back in quite the right place.
She said there is a lot of water that comes off the mountain and many people do not realize that North Drewry Lake is above Canim. Wagner said it’s the overflow from that lake, which drains down the mountain, that residents are currently having problems with.
Wagner said that combined with the fact no big trees are sucking up the excess water and you have ideal conditions for a flood. Forestry has done its best in restoring the landscape but it’s not perfect, Wagner said.
“It’s a bit of a challenge,” she said.
Compounding the problem is the state of Mahood Road which is the detour for residents on the other side of the road closure.
Canim Lake South resident Ron Brown was in a vehicle accident last November. Since he arrived home at the end of January, his wife Rhonda said they have had to use the ambulance on several occasions to get him to the hospital.
“If my husband were to get another infection now, there is no way an ambulance could get to him in a timely manner, to get him to the hospital,” she said.
Wagner acknowledged the condition of the road and said she heard there has been talk of putting out a public service announcement that only 4×4 traffic should travel the road.
Rhonda said the situation is frustrating.
“At the community meeting during the forest fires, the ministry was told they would not only have to deal with the fact that the landscape above had changed and spring thaws would be faster flowing but the ditches and culverts below would have to be restructured in order to accommodate the extra volume of water and debris,” she said. “The culverts were overfilling last year with a slower thaw and still nothing was done!”
Temporary repairs to South Canim Road at the site of the road closure will help mitigate the issue and a permanent solution will be put in place later on.
“Everyone is doing their best through dire circumstances,” said Sallenback.
Canim Lake General store and South Point Resort are still accessible to customers.