By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: Jan.5, 2011.
In a letter written to the council, local engineer Frank Baumann has urged the District of Squamish to addresses seepage issues at the Eagle Run Dike on Government Road.
“I’m concerned about the possibility that a portion of the main Squamish River dike at the Eagle Run on Government Road in Brackendale could collapse during a flood,” he writes, “I’d suggest that this matter needs to be addressed on a high priority by the district’s emergency planning group.”
Reacting to the letter, the council in its regular meeting on Tuesday, Jan.6th, asked the staff to ensure that Baumann’s concern are addressed in a report on dikes that’s soon to be brought before the council. The motion also called for that Baumann be contacted and apprised of the response.
Baumann’s letter, detailed with technical information, makes an expansive case for the district to act on the seepage, an issue he calls the “weakest link” in dike safety.
As a geological engineer with clients such as Magma Energy Corporation in Vancouver, Baumann has a long and varied experience dealing with natural disasters, but his definitive stance on the seepage issue has another dimension.
He speaks as a witness.
In the 2003 flood, Baumann and another local geoscientist, Pierre Friele, saw the water gushing out near one of the residences on the Eagle Run Dike. In a report prepared for the district at that time, they identified seepage as a major issue.
Seepage, if unaddressed, can lead to piping, an advanced, 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 entire dike.
Baumann is not the only one to direct attention at this issue. Two subsequent, district-funded reports, one by Thurber Engineering in 2005 and another by Horizon Geotechnical in 2009, have made the case that seepage is a critical issue in dike safety.
Recently, the district announced that it will spend $153,104 on dike upgrades on the Squamish River, adding riprap on a 350-metre section of the dike, upstream of Fisherman’s Park.
However, there was no word on whether any surplus money would be earmarked to address seepage issues.
At the Jan. 4th council meeting, Mayor Greg Gardner said a comprehensive report on the dikes is forthcoming, but he seem to dither on the need to add in that report the concerns raised by Baumann.
“I have a concern about the recommendation because it’s in fact all under way, the (diking) report is almost finalized. Is there a reason why we want to bring this possible diking issue,” he said.
Coun. Corrine Lonsdale, however, strongly suggested that staff pay attention to what Baumann has to say on the issue.
“I want to see Mr. Baumann’s concerns addressed and included in the report that the staff is preparing,” she said.
Coun. Bryan Raiser suggested that Gardner write a letter to Baumann. Gardner concurred on both these suggestions and the motion was passed.
Residents who live close to the dike say the council should do all in its power to ensure that the dike is safe in the event of a flood.
“I would like to hear how seepage issues can be addressed after a dyke has been built, also on what the future plans are for drainage containment and dredging,” says Glenn Campbell, a Brakendale resident.
She also wondered whether there DOS is consulting BC Hydro to ensure sufficient power supply is available to existing pump stations on the dike.
“We would be very concerned if the district was not paying due attention to a hazardous situation on the dikes,” say Jeff and Caron Ann Berkeley of Brackendale.
Another Brackendale resident, Donald Graham, says: “This is a vital issue , and I will be ensuring that council’s action , or lack of it , will be an election issue next time around.”