Fruitvale water levels on the rise

Fruitvale has issued a closure for Creekside Park, a usual move in response to the high creek flow.

Warm weather and a high snow pack means streams are rising to flood-warning levels and no one is more aware of that fact in the West Kootenay than in Fruitvale.

Village administration has issued a closure for Creekside Park in the downtown core of the Beaver Valley village, a usual move in response to the high creek flow, said Lila Cresswell, Fruitvale’s chief administrative officer.

“We have taken preparatory steps with sand and sandbag availability, and we are working cooperatively with the RDKB Emergency Management,” said Cresswell.

A high stream flow advisory has been issued for the entire West Kootenay by the B.C. River Forecast Centre, lumping in the Boundary (including the Granby and Kettle rivers) and parts of the East Kootenay.

According to the advisory, several days of seasonally hot weather has led to high snowmelt rates over the past three days, particularly at the Moyie Mountain near Cranbrook and Grano Creek near Greenwood.

Snowmelt at higher elevations is not widespread, the report noted, but warmer temperatures are rapidly melting snow at low to mid‐elevation snow packs.

Although river and creek levels are rising quickly in response to that melt, water levels are still below levels of concern, said Dan Derby, deputy regional fire chief with the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB).

The high stream flow advisory is the lowest warning of concern from the province, he said. But the village staff is watchful: a gauge out at Marsh Creek recorded the creek down about two inches from its highest point this spring.

“It is typical for a creek to pulse … and either pulse with the warm weather or a rain event,” Derby said. “Part of me thinks this pulsing could be a good thing at this point because it could just be a long drawn out (melt). But we’ll have to wait and see. This is the beginning of several weeks of this.”

High stream flow rates are anticipated to be occurring in smaller, un-gauged river systems throughout the region like Beaver Creek.

The highest risk area in the Greater Trail region continues to be Fruitvale where homes border Beaver Creek, Derby said, as well as the Kettle River area (through Grand Forks) and Christina Lake on the regional level.

The village checks the level of Beaver Creek daily when it begins to look like the water level is rising, said Cresswell, with gauges installed at the Columbia Gardens Road Bridge and at Marsh Creek. Additional point people are also measuring on the creek at either end of the village.

A frontal system is expected to work its way across British Columbia through Thursday, meaning snow melt rates will decline after it passes.

However, Environment Canada is forecasting up to 40 millimetres of rain through the region later this week, which will keep river levels elevated or continue to rise.

Derby said it was important for people to monitor their own drainage systems right now, as well as catch basins, to make sure they are clear. In the city, Trail city crews are monitoring Trail Creek.

If water levels continue to rise, a plan is in place that includes hundreds of sandbags on ready, with sand piles and burlap bags on hand to create more in Fruitvale, with hundreds more sand bags also in place on a regional district level.

“If this (flooding) affects people’s residences we would bring in some manpower to deal with that,” said Derby.

Last year the City of Trail received a shipment of 4,000 sand bags from the province, adding to the 4,000 bags already stockpiled in the city’s inventory to cover Gorge Creek and Trail Creek.

With all of the preparation in place, there has not been a major flood in Fruitvale since 2007, but down near the village’s cenotaph the waters usually rise and cover lawns that border the creek, submerging around one quarter of the local resident’s land for a few weeks.