Ali Falsafi stands in front of a mudslide on Cowichan Bay Road that pushed the concrete barriers into the middle of the road. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Ali Falsafi stands in front of a mudslide on Cowichan Bay Road that pushed the concrete barriers into the middle of the road. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Staff report sought on drainage and stormwater issues in Cowichan

Committee wants to know what options available

The CVRD wants to know what its options are for dealing with drainage and stormwater management in high-risk areas in its electoral areas.

The district’s electoral area services committee recommended at its meeting on Jan. 19 that a staff report be written on the issue after a lengthy discussion around which level of government is responsible for dealing with them: regional districts or the province.

The discussion came after Cowichan Bay resident Ali Falsafi appeared as a delegation at the beginning of the meeting requesting that the committee approve staff’s recommendation that the report be written.

Falsafi, who is a professional engineer, said flooding, stormwater issues, unstable clay banks, mudslides and landslides have been occurring in the Cowichan Bay area, and potentially other areas in the Valley, for years, and have been particularly bad since the heavy rain events that occurred in November.

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He said it appears that there are no levels of government, local or provincial, that are responsible for comprehensive stormwater management and drainage in electoral areas, but building permits are approved by both levels of government in high-risk areas on a continuous basis.

“Adequate and comprehensive stormwater management is key in the prevention of floods, mudslides and landslides,” Falsafi said.

Falsafi said he contacted the CVRD and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure in December asking them to consider hiring a professional engineering firm with expertise in civil engineering focused on geotechnical and hydraulics specialties in order to fully understand the scope and severity of the situation in the district’s electoral areas.

“Risk management by experts is key,” he said.

“I am not a civil engineer and these [issues] are not my expertise. I believe public safety and property integrity may be at risk based on current knowledge and recent events and I encourage you to refrain from approving further building and development permits until such time that you have all the information necessary in order to make educated decisions that will not cause any additional risk to public safety and property integrity in the areas of concern.”

When the issue was discussed later in the meeting, directors raised concerns about other areas of the CVRD that are also experiencing drainage and stormwater issues, and who is responsible for dealing with them.

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Lori Iannidinardo, the director for Cowichan Bay and the current chair of the board, said she thinks a staff report would be a good idea.

“I think it would be helpful to get some advice from staff and clear this up, and see what the options are with this dilemma,” she said.

Ian Morrison, director for Cowichan Lake South/Skutz Falls, asked Brian Dennison, the district’s water manager, what scope he thinks the staff report would require.

Dennison said anywhere in the CVRD where there is high density and slopes is having problems.

“We get calls from all over the place in which people say everything was fine a few years ago when they moved in, then things changed when more housing was built,” he said.

“Also, the capacity of MoTI to maintain infrastructure has been receding for years. You can get away without cleaning a culvert for one or two years, but when a one in a 100 or 200-year storm hits, the culvert will be completely inadequate. MoTI is very far behind the eight-ball with its capacities these days.”

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Dennison said one of the priorities of the staff report would be to clarify where jurisdictions lie and what may be possible to deal with the issues.

“We’d likely have to talk to MoTI about what the legal boundaries are and what the liabilities are,” he said.

“[MoTI] still has to drain the roads and if we attempt to manage drainage and stormwater, we’ll work with them to see where the boundary lines lie. The province’s solution seems to be to download all these responsibilities onto municipalities.”

CEO Brian Carruthers told directors that the staff report will be a high-level one that will deal with the implications, challenges and opportunities of handling the issues.

“Municipal drainage is tied into roads, but we don’t own the roads and that’s always going to be a challenge moving forward in regional districts,” he said.

“[The report] is a massive undertaking and it’s not something this committee and board is going to have the capacity to deal with in their term of office. An examination of what the options are would probably be helpful for the new board when facing these issues.”



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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