The new flood map takes into account historical data and future trends. Photo supplied by Strathcona Regional District

New floodplain data ready for Salmon and White Rivers

SRD to present data to Sayward at virtual meeting

What do Metallica’s Ride the Lightning, Judas Priest’s Defenders of the Faith and the Salmon and White River flood hazard study have in common?

Well until this month, they all came out in 1984.

While two of these are classics and should be enjoyed in their original form, the third has thankfully been updated and will be presented to the community at a meeting on June 22.

In 2019, the Strathcona Regional District (SRD) worked with the Village of Sayward to secure funding for an updated flood risk assessment. They also received further funding to update and modernize the floodplain map, and develop a model that will show how a flood will act in the Salmon and White River floodplain.

RELATED: Strathcona Regional District looks at flood risk in Sayward area

“Knowing where the floodplain goes and understanding the risk, it’s a crucial part for not just emergency planning and evacuation and knowing what routes are going to get cut off under what types of conditions, whose homes are going to flood, but also for the pre-planning as well,” said SRD’s Protective Services Coordinator Shaun Koopman.

The SRD’s consultant on the project, McElhanney, used modern lidar (light detection and ranging) data and did a bathymetric survey of the river by kayak to get a picture of the reality on the ground. They combined that with projected sea level rise models to give a relatively complete picture of the floodplain projected out until 2100.

“The next 80 years of climate change, for sea level rise, don’t appear to be so significant, just because of the isostatic rebound of east Vancouver Island from glaciation, or the way our landmass is still rising in rate with the sea,” Koopman said. “We will run out of that luxury eventually and sea level rise will catch up with us.”

Isostatic rebound refers to the rise of the land after the weight of glacial ice sheets are removed.

While the village itself is not in the floodplain, the road in and out of Sayward is. Sayward residents are used to living with a flood risk, Koopman said, but the data is still necessary for things like medical evacuation and risk planning.

“Being stranded for a long period of time because the road is completely in the floodplain, that’s a big concern in Sayward,” Koopman said. “I can… tell you from experience that for the rural and remote communities in the SRD, it’s just part of their everyday life.”

“Some of the stories you hear from the old-timers are great,” he added. “When it’s flooding they’ll turn on their walkie talkie radioes. One guy told us a story about when his neighbour was out of flour making cookies and he literally got in a canoe and rowed the flour over to his neighbour. It’s just what they do up there.”

Koopman will be presenting the new map and model to the community on June 22 via Zoom. The meeting will be from 7 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. A link to the meeting is available at the SRD website.

Koopman did not confirm whether he would be playing 80s metal during the meeting.

RELATED: Evacuations in northwest B.C., flood warnings, watches issued as rivers swell

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