The City of Courtenay deployed the aqua dam flood control device last week to help mitigate the flood risk in the Puntledge Business District. The dams — which are like big bladders — were inflated along the Old Island Highway between Ryan and Headquarters roads, and on Comox Road near the Courtenay Slough.
The dams, especially in the latter locale, were put to the test Wednesday during a heavy storm.
“That was the big challenge that night,” Courtenay CAO David Allen said, noting the slough backed up at one end of the dam into the parking lot at the Courtenay Car Centre. However, crews placed sandbags next to the area where the dam ends.
“Everything went smoothly,” Allen said. “The dam held. It wasn’t fully tested but the water was very close…We had a series of conditions where we had a fair amount of rain.
“What really was challenging was the strong winds and the high storm surge. That was .6 or .7 of a metre.”
BC Hydro spokesman Stephen Watson said the decision to deploy the aqua dam was a “prudent measure to prepare for this event.”
Since the dams were purchased last year, Allen said the deployment time has dropped from a day-and-a-half to about half a day. Along with trailers, pumps and other pieces of equipment, the dams are worth about $100,000. They were purchased with federal gas tax funds. City staffers are discussing the possibility of purchasing another device.
“We want to lay it out where the low-lying areas are, and then see if there’s some potential to use them at other locations,” Allen said.
The Puntledge Business District was the epicentre of the 2014 storm that was the largest-ever flood to hit Courtenay. The Fifth Street Bridge and several roads were closed, as was the Lewis Centre, the LINC Youth Centre and the Airpark. Homes and businesses near the Tsolum, Puntledge and Courtenay rivers were evacuated.
“When you think about the tens of millions of dollars of infrastructure and businesses in the Puntledge/Tsolum area, and near the Courtenay Car Centre and the CVRD office, it obviously makes sense to have something you can deploy quickly to protect those areas,” Allen said.
Wednesday’s storm spread debris and damaged sections of the Courtenay Riverway Trail, forcing a temporary closure of affected sections. The riverway was re-opened Friday.
With no further storms forecast, the City announced that the dams will be dismantled this week.