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The problem with Gellatly

The new culvert being installed on Smith Creek, beside Gellatly Road, will withstand a 100-year-storm.

A stark change from several months earlier when the creek could barely handle spring run off, as water began to erode the bank below the road causing safety concerns.

The erosion took the District of West Kelowna (DWK) by surprise, explains Rob Mueller, the acting general manager with community services.

“When we saw the damages that had occurred and the potential for more damage to the sewer line to the houses and to the road we acted immediately.”

Repairs started May 2, and the DWK had to shut down the road to all traffic. With public health and safety at risk the DWK decided to install a culvert which would supply structural support around the gully.

“There are houses fairly close, (although) it has never been an imminent danger, but if the creek had kept doing what it was doing, undermining that total slope, ultimately even the houses could have been in danger.”

Before work could begin a bypass of the sewer system had to be completed, as the engineers feared the sewer trunk main could collapse.

“It was thought that if the slope were to fail anymore than it did, it could rupture the sewer line which could have resulted in raw sewage getting into the creek and ultimately into the lake,” explains Mueller.

With mounting concerns over the emergency repairs neighbours in the area chimed in, expressing frustration over detours around the construction as well as worries of the environmental impact.

Mueller says the DWK is trying to be as diligent as possible when it comes to the environmental risk involved with this project, stating that they are taking fishing and bird mating season into account before finishing tasks such as back filling the culvert.

Several birds have burrowed into the clay cliffside near the culvert, something the DWK also had to take into consideration.

Three trees have been cut down so far, each containing a bird's nests that had to be moved. One nest was taken to a bird sanctuary in Kamloops, says Mueller, while the two other nests were relocated and both the mothers and babies appear to be well.

“We have been as careful with this as we would with issues like fish and wildlife. We have been working together with all the agencies, both provincial and federal, and thanks to them for really working with us.”

The DWK did have money in the budget for emergencies and the province with be helping with the $1 million price tag.

Before the municipality was caught off guard by the erosion, plans were in place to revitalize Gellatly Road. Plans include sidewalks up to the highway, a full arterial road cross section, with bike lanes, two driving lanes and a round-a-bout.

“The design drawings are at a 50 per cent completion stage right now and we are hoping to go to the public with those in July or August,” he says. “There will be a public meeting and the public will have input on the traffic.”

That project is estimated to total $5.1 million dollars and construction is set for 2015.

As for the emergency repairs, Gellatly Road should be open by July 15 or earlier.



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