Nazko weathering the storm as residents return

Some road closures remain, but water has receded far below peak levels

A road closure sign on Nazko Highway on Monday, April 30. Melanie Law photo

Nazko residents were able to return home on Tuesday, after being on evacuation order for a little over a week.

The area is still on evacuation alert.

“There is still a possibility of flooding. This is early for flooding for around here,” says Cariboo Regional District’s Area I director Dylan Cash.

Despite the evacuation alert, the Nazko Road is fully open again, Emcon Services operations manager Bill Pattyson tells the Observer.

“The far end of it was underwater, but the water has receded. So the Nazko Highway from Nazko to kilometre 99 on the Batnuni is now open and passable,” he says.

Some road washouts remain, however.

“The Honolulu Road at 11 km is currently washed out. On Baezaeko Road at 12 km, there is a section of road we are not advising people to drive on due to flooding,” says Pattyson.

“At 79.5 km on Batnuni Road, we are in the process of installing a one-lane bridge and we hope to have light traffic able to travel over that by the end of the week.”

Pattyson says some other side roads are flooded, but are passable for vehicles with four-wheel drive.

Emcon has repaired the Nazko Bridge temporarily, and Pattyson says it is stable.

“We are not allowing fully loaded vehicles across it, but small vehicles of up to 10 to 15 tonnes are not an issue.”

The flooding in the area caused 120 CRD properties to be put on evacuation order, and the Nazko First Nation, with a population of around 200, issued its own evacuation order.

Nazko Reserve resident Jerry Clement says most people have returned home now.

“I think there are a couple people who had their crawl spaces wet because the water table went way up,” he says.

“It didn’t flood over a bank, but the water table in the ground was so high that it went into their basements.”

Clement says those community members lost some belongings to the flooding in their homes, but overall he hasn’t heard of too much damage.

“It could have been way worse. If it went up another two inches, it would have been a big difference, I think. [The water has] gone down about six feet already,” he says.

Lhoosk’uz Dené Nation (Kluskus) was not part of the order, and Neil Gauthreau, natural resources and gold liaison for the band, says the community of around 30 residents has so far not been affected.

“We are not doing too bad. Nazko really took the beating. They are on a flood plain. We live on the foothill of a mountain,” he explains.

“Our access road had some areas where water was across the road, but nothing out of the ordinary for a spring event.”

But they are not out of the woods yet.

“Our pinch point is Nazko Bridge. If that bridge washes out, we are cut off,” explains Gauthreau.

But CRD communications manager says the outlook is good.

“What we’ve been told from B.C. River Forecast Centre and Ministry of Environment is that seems like water is still subsiding in Nazko, and we are not expecting that the rain will cause the water to rise to that peak level. We are monitoring it, and letting people know they need to still be prepared,” she says.

The CRD is holding an information session in the Valley tonight (May 9), to inform residents about re-entry processes and financial assistance available to them. The CRD estimates that around 20 structures were impacted by flooding in the Cariboo Regional District.

Going forward, director Cash says the CRD will support the communities however they can.

“With flooding there’s not a lot we can do. The CRD brought out sandbags… and then they will be available to help [residents] get any [financial] assistance that’s available to them.”

Cash says the best way he can support residents is in getting the evacuation order downgraded.

“The longer people are on evacuation, the harder it is for people to keep businesses going out there.”

Clement says despite the evacuation order, it was good to see people come together.

“It was nice to see people work together and people being there for each other.”

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