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Valemount water supply threatened by landslide

Swift Creek slope still unstable, residents issued evacuation alert
05 Swift Creek landslide Valemount
A landslide near Valemount on a slope close to Swift Creek is threatening the water supply of the village, 292 km southeast of Prince George. This photo was taken Saturday, after a large chuck of the slope fell.

Residents of Valemount and the public are being advised to stay away from a landslide adjacent to Swift Creek that continues to shift and is threatening the water supply of the village, 292 kilometres southeast of Prince George.

Conditions on the unstable slope could change suddenly and village officials and the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George continue to monitor the site for shifting land that could affect the flow and turbidity of the Swift Creek.

An evacuation alert was issued Saturday for all properties in the northeast side of Main Street in Valemount, starting at William Road and continuing the Swift Creek bridge at the end of Main Street.

“There’s been a lot more rockfall intensity over the last couple days and there’s been a sizeable chunk of earth that’s moved,” said Village of Valemount chief administrative officer Wayne Robinson.

“So, of course, the concern is that if that slide came across the creek it could interrupt the flow of Swift Creek, which is the village’s water supply. There’s always the potential of a debris or the bursting of a dam (caused by a build-up of debris in the creek) if it ever came to that, which we’re hoping is unlikely.”

The rock slide is about 250 metres at its widest point and about 500 m long and it’s dumping debris about four kilometres from the Swift Creek drainage area. The activity was first noticed by local residents 10 days ago when they saw rocks coming down from a long-existing slide area.

“It really started to pick up team Thursday afternoon,” said Robinson. “We saw a fairly decent chunk of rock come down and on Friday we saw an enormous amount of movement. It wasn’t that loud, it was more of a visual thing, with a lot of dust and debris coming up in the air.

“Today we had a geotech come and take a look at the area so we’re expecting to get a report back from them shortly on what the possible outcomes are if thus came down, whether it’s going to cover the creek, or if it did, what would be the consequences of that.

“It’s still about 200 metres from the creek itself but it does not appear to have progressed any closer to the creek since we first discovered it,” he said.

Robinson said there are 25 properties north of the village and another 15 in the regional district jurisdiction which could be affected by a sudden change in the flow of the creek.

Residents are being warned they might be forced to leave on short notice and to make the necessary preparations. They are being told to make up emergency kits which contain household insurance and personal documents such as birth certificates/passports, and photographs, as well as several days’ clothing, medicine /prescriptions, toys and books for kids, and pet leashes, food and carriers.

In the event of an evacuation, be aware of any neighbour, friend of family member with mobility issues which could delay leaving their homes.

The village will increase its water restriction advisory to Level 3 as of 12:01 a.m. Monday and residents are being asked to have alternate water sources on hand in case the flow of the creek gets disrupted and the water supply is cut off.

Trail No. 6, which runs adjacent to Swift Creek from the Valemount Bike Park, has been closed. The public is being told to avoid all backcountry trails near the affected area.

Village/regional district officials and the security company working on the Trans Mountain Pipeline are at the river near the site of the slide monitoring the situation 24/7, said Robinson.

There are about 1,000 residents in Valemount and the Trans Mountain work camp south of the village has another 1,000 people. It’s also a popular place for tourists, who come to explore the waterways and high-alpine territory.

Further updates will be provided on social media sites operated by the Village of Valemount and the regional district or on the websites www.valemount.ca and www.rdffg.bc.ca . Robinson is encouraging residents to sign up to the emergency alert system, which will provide immediate warnings through cell phone connections. Details of how to access the system are on both websites.