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Elizabeth Lake flooding continues, study to be done by end of August

The City of Cranbrook has been using pumps at Wattsville Road to try to keep Elizabeth Lake levels down. - Arne Petryshen photo
The City of Cranbrook has been using pumps at Wattsville Road to try to keep Elizabeth Lake levels down.
— image credit: Arne Petryshen photo

The city continues to move water out of Elizabeth Lake to mitigate the high water and lessen the impacts that flooding is having on nearby residents.

At council on June 23, Chief Administrative Officer Wayne Staudt said Urban Systems will conduct a study of the Elizabeth Lake water issue and downstream drainage system.

"We've authorized them to go forward with that study," Staudt said.

The estimated cost of the project is $30,000, which is slated to come out of the General Fund Accumulated Surplus as an emergency expenditure, unless the city can find a non-city funding source. The study is expected to be complete by the end of August.

Staudt said the study will be an important step in understanding why there is so much water coming into Elizabeth Lake.

“The other issue that’s more important to us is understanding our drainage system throughout the city and figuring out how much volume we can actually handle in the drainage system from Wattsville Road and down through the system,” he said. “People that are familiar with it know that eventually that drains into Joseph Creek, but it also merges with Hospital Creek partway down, so it’s a fair amount of water that’s coming down that system and we’re concerned that there will be various choke points along that system that will tell us how much water... and improvements we need to make to our culverts or other things in the system so we can handle more water out of Elizabeth Lake.”

Staudt said the city has been having ongoing meetings with the regional district and with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to figure out how they can continue to move water out of Elizabeth Lake. They are currently working on a syphoning system that will pull more water out of the lake.

Earlier this month, the city and the Ministry tried to open up the culvert that runs under the highway, but there were immediate problems.

“It couldn’t keep up and we had flooding problems,” Staudt said, referring to downstream flooding.

Later in the meeting, during council reports, Coun. Gerry Warner said he was concerned with the way the city had communicated with the public on the matter.

“How many people in Cranbrook know that the lake is now filled with effluent from the leaking septic tanks that have been flooded out at Caldwell Road?” he asked. “That’s not a healthy situation.”

He also said the city was too late in issuing a press release about staying off the flooded trails around the lake.

“I think we kind of dropped the ball on this one and now we’re paying for it with the possibility of litigation against us by these angry Caldwell Road residents,” Warner said. “I wish we could act like good neighbours ourselves to our neighbours and not always go by advice we get from lawyers, lawyers in Vancouver, on how to deal with problems that we’re perfectly capable to deal with ourselves, here at home.”

Mayor Wayne Stetski countered Warner with his perspective on the matter.

“When you look back over what the city was doing, the city pumped water out of Elizabeth Lake for two months in a controlled manner. The principle behind that was we needed to take the appropriate amount of water out of Elizabeth Lake that the culverts under the highway could handle. Did the city sit back and do nothing? Absolutely not. The city was very active in trying to manage the amount of water coming out of the lake the entire time.”

Stetski said there have been multiple agency meetings over the period.

“I would agree with one aspect of your concerns and that’s that perhaps we didn’t get our message out the way we could have or should have,” he said. “We rely on the Regional District of East Kootenay to do our communications. In between the RDEK communications we probably could have done some of our own too.”

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