BEYOND THE HEADLINES: Downloading washes in

Richard Rolke on the need for apathy for residents of Ashton Creek

There should be considerable sympathy for the residents of Ashton Creek.

After all, anxiety has been high since June 2012 when the creek, which carries the same name as the community, went wild.

More than 100 families were impacted by the flooding and debris, including residents of the Creekside Mobile Home Park, who were issued an evacuation alert.

“It was blowing banks and taking sheds out,” said resident Patty Marshall at the time.

Those concerns arose again this year as water levels climbed high again. And while there wasn’t any extensive flooding, it’s evident that an emergency similar to 2012 could occur again.

“We have a continuous problem with spring flooding and we need the problem addressed before there is damage to property and life,” Len Bawtree, a former MLA and life-long resident, recently told the Regional District of North Okanagan board.

Mother Nature obviously plays a role in this situation, but so does bureaucracy.

Because of a lack of dredging, the creek bed is higher than the surrounding ground and a culvert pipe has been allowed to fill in with gravel.

RDNO is under pressure to initiate a study on flood mitigation, but the director for Ashton Creek isn’t enthusiastic to get involved.

“The creek is a provincial responsibility. It should be the province that fixes it,” said Jackie Pearase.

The concern is that if RDNO agrees and funds the study, further provincial downloading will occur and the regional district will be left with repair costs and ongoing maintenance.

“Once you are into it, you own all of the issues,” said Ron Baker, RDNO’s community protective services manager.

Downloading is a very real concept given what has been going on in Spallumcheen.

There, Victoria refused to do a flood study on Fortune Creek so residents went ahead with the process. Now, the province is demanding the Township of Spallumcheen pay for upgrades.

Now no one should be surprised that the provincial government is passing the buck. Whether it’s milfoil weed control, highway landscaping or social programs, Victoria is increasingly handing over duties to local governments. It’s a way of shifting their financial burden onto the backs of others.

But it should be pointed out that the province has considerably deeper pockets than communities, and particularly small, rural areas.

“They can’t afford to contribute,” said Trafford Hall, RDNO administrator, of Ashton Creek’s tax base.

The bottom line is that waterways such as creeks are a provincial responsibility. Victoria owns them and sets all of the rules for them, including dredging.

No one can fault the residents of Ashton Creek for turning to RDNO for help because something must be done before next spring. But pressure is being applied in the wrong place.

Residents, with support from RDNO, need to demand that Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo not only take their message to the powers-that-be, but to openly lobby on their behalf.

It also wouldn’t hurt to invite Premier Christy Clark for a tour of Ashton Creek as she stated she would be a voice for the region when she became an Okanagan MLA.

It is time for Victoria to live up to its responsibilities.



Vernon Morning Star