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City of Courtenay considering fourth option to cope with flooding

THESE ARE THREE options for flood mitigation as listed the in Courtenay
THESE ARE THREE options for flood mitigation as listed the in Courtenay's January flood management study draft recommendations report. The City is now considering a fourth flood relief-based scenario after suggestions from the Estuary Working Group.
— image credit: Photo submitted

After a delegation to council and an on-site floodplain meeting, Courtenay is seriously considering the Estuary Working Group's recommendations for flood relief.

City engineering manager Derek Richmond couldn't confirm the working group's request that a flood relief-based scenario will be run through Courtenay's modelling system predicting flood levels. But, he says it's likely after seeing exactly what the group proposes.

"We did get the message," Richmond said late last week. "There are some very valid points in what they bring up and it's another area that we certainly are including in our deliberations of options.

"It's a matter of trying to figure out how we can run that (flood relief-based scenario) and incorporate some of the ideas that we've got in the overarching study, and we should have an answer on that fairly quickly here. Once we figure out what can be done and when it can be done, then we'll be talking to the consultants about moving to the next phase, which obviously is to rerun the model."

Don Castleden and Wayne White of the Estuary Working Group branch of Project Watershed last week presented suggestions for a flood relief-only option to include in the City's flood management study.

The three current options are: a flood wall along the old channel of the Tsolum River by Lewis Park, an area ring dike, or a partial ring dike with a floodway.

But Castleden and White had concerns around how all three options try to block the water through physical structures.

"Essentially it's more of a tradeoff than preventing the flooding; it's pushing the flooding back upstream," White told council. "You're just trying to put a greater amount of water through the same size outlet; it means your lake behind it is going to go up."

Maple Pool Campsite and K'ómoks First Nation land upstream of the proposed structures are a couple of places he said could be affected by these options.

Instead, White and Castleden requested an option in which a floodway would be made through to the Comox Bay Farm (formerly Farquharson Farm) fields, allowing the water to take its original, natural route.

Lowering area roads, like Puntledge Road, was one idea to direct water towards the fields.

"To lower them essentially to try to protect the businesses that are in the area, and the road (Puntledge Road) more or less ends at Highway 19A," explained White. "So that's the logical spot to essentially put a bypass or an underpass for that water to get into the field areas there."

He acknowledged the relief option may not work over time due to increased flows and climate change, and some more "intrusive" options may need to be implemented. But they stressed a flood relief-first approach would minimize that need in the future.

Richmond noted if the new scenario is generated using the City's software, it may not be exactly what the working group is looking for down to every last detail.

But the City "could certainly see some combinations of what they're looking at and what our consultants have looked at to date," he added. "And I think we came out with a very clear direction that there's certainly a good compromise on a lot of very practical suggestions that were included by the estuary group."

The final flood management study was originally set to come out this month, but Richmond said it will be a little later.

"We want to get it out right. We want to get the right study out with the right direction for the right reasons and if that means delaying it a little bit, you know, maybe by a month, not a big deal," he said. "This is a long, far-reaching direction that we're heading for so we want to make sure that we get it right."

For more information on the study, visit www.courtenay.ca.

writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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