ASK Salt Spring with Salt Spring Island Emergency Coordinator, Charles Nash on recent flooding and road conditions

Eighteen Salt Springers came to discuss our recent flood and our roads with Salt Spring Island Emergency Coordinator, Charles Nash, and four of our Transportation Commissioners.

After a meaningful Territorial Acknowledgment, we asked Charles to begin by giving us some guidance about preparing for emergencies. The messages were loud and clear - and repeated in a variety of ways during our two hours together:

  • We each have a responsibility to prepare ourselves for emergencies. Some of these preparations include having several Grab and Go bags ready (for home, car, work, and pets), having extra water accessible, and signing up for the application, Alertable.
  • Our PODs are critically-important in addressing emergencies. They are able to successfully-alert and help neighbours by phone, email, notice boards, and even knocking on doors. Charles suggested we all make sure that we are connected to our neighborhood POD. If you cannot seem to identify one in your community, contact Charles at 250-537-1220
  • Emcon Road Services has an emergency number to help those in flooded road emergencies: 1-866-353-3136.
  • Our 911 emergency dispatch service is bigger and better than ever. Use it when it is needed.

While Charles and his team were out monitoring Fulford-Ganges water levels during our flood, he advised us that preparing ourselves and linking with our POD are our best options.

We learned that Charles and all emergency responders will soon be meeting to debrief and formulate plans to ensure that they do better next time, especially with enhanced communications.

Did you know that this flood exceeded by three times the flood of 1948, long our benchmark for flooding emergencies?

When participants asked why road closures were not well-signed, we learned that an adequate supply of signs was simply not available anywhere in the province. Emcon has already committed to purchasing additional signage.

We also learned that communications could have been far better. While Drive BC is the official source of roads information, participants cited recent examples of posted information that was simply not correct. Will the application Alertable provide better, more accurate information?

Clear frustration about the flooding of our roads was shared by many. Much of this concern was frustration about inadequate signage - like not knowing North End was closed until reaching the closure and inadequate signage at the Fulford-Ganges closure. While our roads services may not have adequately signed closures, according to Charles, there were also too many instances when islanders either moved or stole signage, an illegal act that made the already-serious emergency even more serious.

Another major concern was detoured traffic that severely overloaded Cusheon Lake Road. It was often expressed that Cusheon Lake, inadequate in even the best of times, was a frightening and dangerous route when also accommodating the detoured big rigs. While recognizing that this was a serious problem, Charles also reminded us: Always, in an emergency, PLEASE slow down!

While our roads maintenance contractor, Emcon, was acknowledged for their emergency responses, this flood revealed something most of us knew anyway: Decades of deferred maintenance has its consequences. The severely-underfunded Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) seemingly focuses much of its attention on its heavily-travelled roads - like the Malahat - at the expense of our roads.

We were reminded that MoTI has a herculean challenge when it comes to our roads: Most are old wagon trails built on logs. While the perfect solution would be to rebuild all our roads, beginning with the roadbeds, funding and other priorities have forced MoTI to defer this needed work on our roads.

We were also reminded that expensive roadwork (estimated at $1 million dollars per kilometre of asphalt) is further complicated by the disturbing reality that, in too many instances, MoTI does not own sufficient right of way, sometime not even owning the roadbed itself. Acquiring roadbeds and rights of way to improve and widen them to also accommodate cyclists and pedestrians is an extraordinarily-expensive endeavour, something MoTI has avoided when possible.

So, if we cannot rebuild all our roads immediately, what about focusing on their maintenance? When concerns about the band aid fixes of our plentiful potholes was mentioned, Charles reminded us that fixing potholes is only a temporary solution: potholes are a clear indication of a road in trouble and in need of reconstruction. . . .So, back to the same theme: Our roads need work.

Before jumping to the conclusion that incorporation is the only solution, Charles reminded us of the millions and millions of dollars needed to bring our roads up to rural standards on top of the millions of dollars of emergency fixes. He asked us to consider whether Salt Springers really want to take on this huge economic burden.

What can be done?

Many agreed that, while Fulford-Ganges is expected to be open before this report is published, addressing the symptoms is simply not enough. We need to also seek to cure. While Emcon got stars for cleaning out most of the ditches before the flood, Charles told us of totally-rusted, inoperable culverts that must immediately be addressed. Charles suggested that MoTI needs a loud and clear message that Emcon must be given the funding and directive to address decades of deferred maintenance.

We can also become POD leaders. Charles is always seeking POD leaders to help us all better address our emergencies.

We were also reminded that we also have a role: Homeowners are responsible for keeping their driveway culverts clear and functioning. And, given the poor condition of our roads and, especially, in these flooded times: Drive slowly!

As our time together drew to a close, we had not solved our daunting road concerns, but we clearly understood the very real challenges that need to be addressed. The clear message to Charles as he works with others in our community charged with addressing emergencies was that:

  • Clearer information is essential,
  • A stockpile of signs to alert drivers of danger is needed, and
  • MoTI simply has to hear - over and over again from multiple sources - that our island’s deferred road maintenance/upgrades must be addressed.

Before leaving for our day’s doings, though, Charles reminded us of yet another terrifying danger: With our soil saturated and tree roots so vulnerable, a wind storm could be devastating.

We all thanked Charles for taking the time to inform and listen to us - and for all his efforts to help us address the emergencies that buffet us. Thank-you, Charles!

Please join us Friday, December 3, 11-1, in our winter location at the Library Program Room to welcome MLA Adam Olsen.

Capacity is limited to 25, and masks are required, removed only to drink coffee or eat homemade chocolate chip cookies 🙂

What do you want to ask him?

What has been learned from our weather emergency?
Can you give us a preview of the 2022 Legislative session?
Do you think a review of the Islands Trust Act will be undertaken in the near future?
Any suggestions about addressing our road concerns from a totally new perspective?
What’s next for the Police Act Review Committee?
What’s happening in efforts to protect our old growth?
And?

See you Friday, December 3, 11-1, in the Library Program Room to welcome Adam!

Any question, anytime: ask@asksaltspring.com

Want to help? ASK Salt Spring now has a Save-a-Tape box at Country Grocer.
We love your receipts! Remember: #15

Our Partners. . . . Our rent - reduced through the generosity of our Library - is being paid for byIsland Savings’ Simple Generosity grant. Cookie and coffee fixings are the result of the generosity of Country Grocer.

Gayle Baker
ASK Salt Spring

November 30, 2021 12:06 PM

  • We could do much better with a city council to coordinate, advise and ultimately plan!!! Time for Salt Spring to grow up and manage its own affairs.

  • bill harrington says:

    If we had incorporated you and I and not the province would be paying out the millions it will cost to fix these roads.

  • gregimages says:

    The province does not even take responsibility for warning communities of upcoming disastrous weather events. They have left it up to local government who may not have the warning or expertise to judge and act. A broken system at all levels.

  • myna lee johnstone says:

    No mention of public transit.!!!
    No mention of need to engage in ridesharing!!
    These are 2 major methods to reduce wear and tear on roads. And add to public safety.

  • Oh yes, I remember the narrative. Sorry I believe in paying your own way and being responsible for yourself. Locals could do a much better job.