By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: Feb. 10, 2011.
After refusing to accept it for years, the Squamish council has suddenly realised that there is no more pressing issue to address on the dikes than potential seepage in the event of a flood.
This delayed realization, welcome as it is, will set you, the tax payer, back by $270,000.
This Feb.8th, Tuesday, acting on a 2008 Thurber Engineering report, the council authorized $900,000 from the 2011 budget to fix potential dike seepage.
The money would be used to construct a large berm and place a sheet-pile barrier along a portion of the eagle viewing area of the dike on Government Road. The project is expected to be complete within this year, said the district’s engineer, Brian Barnett.
Barnett also noted in his summary report that the cost for implementing the Thurber report in 2008 would have been $630,000, but with inflation and increased construction costs since then, he estimated the same project to cost $900,000 in 2011.
Still, Squamish citizens, especially those who live close to the dike, should be thankful that the only cost they are paying for this delay is in a dollar amount.
With no upgrades for seepage since 2003, the repeat of the 2003- like flood might have extracted a higher cost in property and life.
Since the 2003 flood, the council has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on dikes, but curiously, it has ignored dike seepage even as one consultant after the other warned that seepage, if uncontrolled, could tear apart the dike in minutes.
And the abruptness with which seepage is being brought to the fore now is as surprising as the blitheness with which it was forgotten in the first place.
It might all be attributed to Thurber report, highlighted by the Reporter.
One of the report’s suggestions cuts to the chase.
“Prevent internal erosion/piping that results in boiling, which is the most critical condition that will lead to imminent dike failure,” the report said.
The “piping” mentioned above is the next, more ominous stage of seepage: Water creates a pipe as it removes the gravel while seeping through the dike, eats away at it and finally collapses the dike.
A local expert Frank Baumann, too, wrote a letter to the council urging it to treat seepage as a priority issue.
The Squamish council first downplayed the issue of seepage, with the mayor saying that the district was “aware” of the problem and that it does its best to “monitor” the dike for seepage during flood.
But that cool indifference was swept away by a flood of breathless urgency in Tuesday’s committee of the whole meeting. Coun. Corinne Lonsdale likened the issue at one point to an “emergency situation.” The district’s engineer brushed aside another, recently submitted, dike report to give prominence to the Thurber report.
“We are recommending that this proceed immediately at a higher priority,” Barnett said.
The alacrity is heartening, if startling, although it would have saved the taxpayer almost $300,000 and served Squamish better if it had come three years ago when the report was actually completed.