Oasis residents share more than a quiet neighbourhood.
Water drainage has long been a problem for the community that rests on a mountainside and community members are now concerned that a culvert is not directing flow and water is travelling onto and underneath properties.
Neighbours along Hannah Drive gathered at Trevor and Shari Young’s property Tuesday morning when Dan Derby, regional deputy fire chief, and Terry Martin, Kootenay Boundary Regional Fire Rescue chief, assessed the saturated property.
“Our house is really close to the bank, and there seems to be a lot of water pooling down there and I think it’s because there isn’t proper drainage from up above,” said Shari. “Our ground is eroding because the water is not draining.”
The couple’s backyard has visibly sunk over the 11 years they’ve owned their home, but the dramatic increase in water in the last year has the pair concerned for their home and safety of their children.
A large chunk of their lower property sloughed off the bank last year, prompting the Youngs to build retaining walls, which have slumped since. A further push to act now came just this week when a large willow tree in their backyard leaned to a 30-degree angle within 24 hours.
“At night we hear some pretty loud creaking and wake up and wonder what it is,” said Shari.
Trevor toured Martin and Derby around the property line, pointing to the soft ground and sunken tree. It was the first they had heard about the home, said Martin who was intrigued to learn that water flows and pools year round and said he’d like to get a geotechnical engineer to survey the property before an opinion is formed.
“It’s really beyond our scope,” added Derby, who planned to make some calls to Emergency Management BC that day.
There was no sense of relief after they left, Trevor admitted. But at least some more people are aware of their situation. He pointed to a culvert off of Oasis Crescent that garnered attention from Greg Kinnear, road area manager for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, who stopped in to take a closer look Tuesday morning. Kinnear did not provide comment on site and pointed to a media representative, who could not respond to inquiries via email by press time Tuesday.
At a glance, water flows off the mountainside behind Oasis down a pipe and into a ditch and is said to continue from there into a culvert at the end of Oasis Crescent, where Jodie Lemieux has lived for 22 years.
“We’ve had sink holes in people’s driveways up here, foundations are sinking on homes here,” she said. “In the next couple weeks, I expect my backyard is going to be flooded and the house next door’s crawl space to be flooded.
“Everybody’s yard is toast out here.”
Kyle MacInnis grew up in Oasis and though he has since settled in Rivervale, he makes a point of speaking out on behalf of his friends who are trying to get some improvements to drainage.
“They started letting the material pile up in (the ditch) and it decomposed, now once the water comes into contact with it it just absorbs into the earth,” he explained. “If they had maintained the ditch, it would have been harder, compacted soil and it would have flowed to where it should be flowing.”
The neighbourhood has tried before to get the culvert extended but invasive knapp weed has limited their fight.
MacInnis calls “bullshit.”
“You can ditch it out, truck the material to a site that’s licensed to hold that material,” he said. “But it all comes down to dollars, that’s all it is.”
Area B director Linda Worley has been aware of the drainage problem in Oasis for the over six years she’s represented the community.
“I’ve heard every explanation as to why highways can’t proceed from it’s a secondary road to we don’t have money to the ground is too saturated, which every year they wait until the ground it too saturated and we phone and panic and they say it’s too saturated and we can’t do anything until it dries out,” she said. “This year is a little different because it’s really sopping and I got a call from a lady on Hannah Drive who’s very concerned about her yard sloughing off and her house is in jeopardy.”
Though she can advocate for change, she doesn’t have any jurisdiction over the decisions or actions of the province on their lands. She contacted MLA Katrine Conroy, who was already informed and lobbying for something to be done, and alerted the Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) in Trail, headed by Derby. She awaits a professional assessment of whether the bank is unstable, at which point the EOC will determine appropriate action.