Homeowners in Naramata still dealing with excessive water runoff as subdivision construction grows

Hit again by rampant runoff

Casey Richardson

A group of Naramata residents are frustrated that there has been little done to deal with ongoing excessive water runoff from developments above their homes since a first incident four years ago.

Last week when a thunderstorm rained down Tuesday night, water flowed down the hillside from the Vista development, sending rocks and mud down the hillside throughout the Stonebrook subdivision.

Dave Maw and Lynn Held have been living in Stonebrook since 2017, after being awarded the PNE prize home lottery in 2016. What they didn’t expect was that their next four years would be pockmarked by flooding events from uncontrolled runoff.

“Our property, originally in 2018, had a slide that came down from up above and went through between our house and the next property over. It did extensive damage to my driveway, and we had a lot of cleanups to do,” Maw said.

“We were told at the time that that was just a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.”

That occurrence started to become regular over the years for the area, with the residents watching the hills above whenever heavy rainfall would come or freshet would start to melt.

“Almost every year since we've had some water runoff. And another bad one was this June, where we had a burst from above where they had a berm and it didn't hold the water and let loose,” Held said. “I freak out every time it rains, not knowing what's gonna come down.”

“I live in constant fear. I don't sleep at night, because I'm worrying that something's going to happen. And it's just been draining, just totally draining and nothing seems to get resolved.”

Norbert Lacis has been a resident in the area since 2015, and while his home has never been hit by the runoffs, he’s unhappy that his community has had to deal with it.

“2018 was the first time we really saw a problem,” Lacis said. “Here we are, four years later, and nothing has changed. So we had another rainfall event, and more mud, water, and rock comes down the hillside, damaging some property and the roads and infrastructure around this subdivision.”

“There were a few lots that got damaged, the road was completely covered with rock debris. And it went down and on to the next street and pool there, like a lake, and flooded.”

Since the start, the property owners say they have tried to get answers from the developer, the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) and the Ministry of Forests.

“No one's taking any responsibility. And there doesn't seem to be any oversight or planning to make sure this doesn't happen,” Maw said.

He added that to the developer’s credit, they have taken some responsibility and tried to remediate the damage, adding waterways, cleaning up debris and fixing the driveway damage. But the small fixes are not solving the overlying issues.

The residents feel it’s at the point where all the governing bodies need to come together to work on a fix, as the areas continue expanding further into the hillside throughout the entire valley.

RDOS CAO Bill Newell said that the Regional District has not been delegated any role in stormwater management or drainage systems by the provincial government, nor are they a subdivision approving authority.

He added that the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, which are responsible for storm drainage in regional districts, is also reviewing the matter.

Castanet contacted MoTI for a comment, but they were unavailable before publication time.

“I don't think it's getting enough attention and I don't think our elected representatives are doing enough to prevent this from happening again,” Lacis said.

“There's lots of room there for the RDOS to actually be proactive and put some things in place to protect residents like us. But for whatever reason, they're not interested in doing that, and I just don't understand why,” he added, pointing to other regional districts using permitting systems that control what developers do on hazardous properties, like hillsides.

“This isn't just a matter of some mud and rock and stuff on a roadway, this is a safety issue for people who live below these developments….Something has to change.”

The residents have contacted local MLA Dan Ashton, who has arranged to speak with them in the next week.

“I personally think it's up to the developers working in hand with the regional district and the province to ensure that everybody is protected from these events,” Ashton said.

“'I’m not talking about specifically in the subdivisions, right, because it's going to be a whole area that's going to have to work together.”

“As development takes place and disturbs the hillside, we collectively are all going to have to address the possibility of this taking place more and more often. And this should not be on the back of the citizens.”

When the Legislative Assembly sits again on Oct. 3, Ashton plans to bring up the issues.

“The Ministry approves the subdivisions. I think it's incumbent on the Ministry to ensure that there's adequate drainage,” he said.

“One person can’t solve this problem and as development takes place up in the hills, we’ve got to all make sure that proper drainage is taking place in all aspects of it, whether it is roadways or developments.”

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