Editor, The Nelson Daily:
The Perry Ridge Water Users Association extends their sincere condolences to the victims of the Johnsons Landing landslide.
Our Association has tracked landslides in the Kootenays for close to 30 years, using the expertise of Frank Baumann P. Eng, Dr. June Ryder, P. Geo,the late Dr. Tony Salway, Terrain Specialist, Trevor Jones, Engineer and Allen Isaacson, Hydrologist.
All of the experts, in many cases including the government’s own experts, all agree that British Columbia has many high risk areas and unstable areas, especially in the Kootenays.
Peter Jordan in his Incidence of landslides report (see www.perryridge.org) states that landslides typically increase by 2 – 10 x by forest development.
Unfortunately development continues to be planned on unstable terrain and increases the risk to residents below.
Whether forest development added to the already existing risk of a high hazard at Johnsons Landing or not it hazard mapping could have prevented this and it is a well known fact that roads and cutting increase water volume and sedimentation in the steeply incised creeks in the West Kootenays.
The headwater areas, which drain very large areas of the mountains, all drain to the valley bottom where we live.
The Association has a copy of the report on the Van Tuyl Creek that took the life of a local resident.
The #1 cause was the diversion of water from above on the cutover area to the mid-elevation of the creek causing a landslide.
We also have seen reports for Austin Greengrass’ property that suffered a major slump and decreased property value, the Memphis Creek slide, the Vallican Slide, and the Passmore slide.
The frequency of slides is high in the region.
(Premier) Christy Clarke and the government officials are saying in the press that this slide was not predictable.
However, Frank Baumann assured me in an e-mail a few days ago that hazard mapping would have prevented this.
In 2000 Frank Baumann, Dr. June Ryder, Allen Isaacson and Trevor Jones accompanied myself, representing Perry Ridge Water Users Association, along with Muffin Benedict met with the then Minister of Environment. At that time Mr. Frank Baumann advised Ms. Joan Sawicki that hazard mapping is necessary to prevent landslides and sorely need in BC.
Frank Baumann flew over the slide and has stated in the press that this landslide was preventable – contrary to what Christy Clarke has said in the press.
The government of BC is in serious denial.
Johnsons Landing could have been evacuated had the government taken warnings seriously about the creek and acted immediately to acknowledge that the signs in the creek put homes at risk.
Perry Ridge Water Users Association believe it is negligent for the BC Government to continue to increase the risk to lives, homes and properties by forest development. In the absence of hazard mapping and updated rainfall/hydrological data the government is not showing due diligence in its work.
Further it is the victims, who will be put at risk that should decide whether it is acceptable not the government.
Certainly an investigation is warranted but how many lives must be lost before the government admits that there are areas in the province where there should not be development and that these areas should be and should have been in the past removed from the Annual Allowable Cut.
To add insult to injury much of the cost to enter these high risk areas with roads are subsidized by the citizens who are being put at risk.
In fact on our website there is our letter to Minister Thompson sent prior to the Johnson’s Landing slide asking that Perry Ridge be removed from the cut and that no more development proceed on Perry Ridge above the densely settled area, where a landslide would have disastrous consequences.
According to Dr. June Ryder, one plugged culvert would have disastrous results.
We accept that the climate change is bringing sudden and torrential downpours – all the more reason to stop planning into the areas above and around our homes.
Climate Change itself is being exacerbated by forest removal.
We do not wish to show any disrespect to the victims of Johnsons Landing during their losses and grief.
However, it is a long time overdue for the Government of BC to act responsibly, which they have not done, by ignoring advice and warnings from independent professionals.
Perry Ridge Water Users Association