The Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) will spend $5,000 to study what went well and what needs work from its 2020 freshet response in the Boundary. Emergency Management B.C. (EMBC) will chip in another $5,000 to fund the after action review, which will shed some light on how threat levels and action calls were decided upon and communicated to the public.
“It’s valuable to make sure we don’t just go from one disaster to the next without [learning],” said RDKB Area D director Roly Russell on July 30 at a board of directors meeting, after approving the spending.
Particularly, Russell said he wanted to use the review to examine how river forecasts could be more responsibly communicated.
“I think one of the pieces that we really need to clarify and need to have some strong guiding direction for our board around is the challenges this year around […] wildly fluctuating forecasts,” he said at the meeting.
Before the West Kettle, Granby and Kettle rivers peaked between May 31 and June 2 in the Boundary, projections from the BC River Forecast Centre showed peaks well above those that caused widespread devastation in 2018, as well as more regular water return levels. The day-by-day changes caused increased anxiety in many residents and prompted the RDKB and the City of Grand Forks to spend $335,000 on flood protection, building large flood protection measures such as an earth berm along 68th Avenue and Tiger dams around the downtown core. Only one corner of the Tiger dam at City Park got wet from the river.
The RDKB had originally asked EMBC for $18,000, then $13,000 to fund the review, but was told that the lack of damage from the 2020 freshet meant that such an amount was not merited.
“EMBC denied our request saying they feel that due to the level of property damage or lack thereof, a request in the $5,000 range could be approved,” reads a staff report from Mark Stephens, the RDKB’s interim manager of emergency programs. Stephens told the board that the $5,000 offered by the province would not be enough to pay for a consultant to look at how COVID-19 affected this year’s flood response, nor to allow enough of a detailed review into the role of the BC River Forecast Centre – “one of the top items to be discussed,” Stephens said.
“The BC River Forecast Centre does things for us that are critical,” Russell said. “We need to have clarity around what that balance of timely and responsive forecasts is for us.”