Sheridan Lake residents put ‘government on notice’

Residents reiterate calls for a larger culvert to divert high water

Sheridan Lake homeowners are reiterating calls to the B.C. government to build a bigger culvert on Highway 24 after facing exceptionally high waters this summer.

Stephen Scrimshaw, who has a vacation home at Sheridan Lake, has sent an open letter to government officials, saying it’s imperative a bigger culvert is built to release the pent-up water, which is overflowing into their homes. Sheridan Lake is among many communities in the South Cariboo, including Green Lake and Lac La Hache, facing flooding and high water flows.

“My basement is full of water and the canoe in the basement is floating inside the house,” Scrimshaw said. “It’s just going to compound after this. It’s just the beginning of a trend. It’s a shame because the Ministry of Transportation made all of these changes to the infrastructure that caused these problems.”

He and others argue a decision by the then Ministry of Transportation and Highways in the 1970s to replace the former bridge on Highway 24 with a small four-foot-by-65-foot culvert has resulted in foreshore erosion, tree loss and flood damage to their lakefront properties. The culvert is not only too small, they say, but is too high and sloped upwards, restricting the flow.

Sheridan resident Roger Bryenton is appealing to all affected landowners to collectively ask Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and the Ministry of Environment, to add another culvert, at a lower elevation to restore the lower lake levels.

“We now have our own private lagoon here, it’s four inches deep and full of muck,” he said, noting his foundation is underwater. “It needs at least one more culvert. The marshes and bullrushes have grown in to restrict the flow. If freezes, lots of snow make the lake much higher.”

READ MORE: Flooding closing roads in Green Lake area

He also reached out to Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett, who said she will send letters to the provincial ministers to highlight the problem. “There are all kinds of issues there,” she said. “There’s flooding everywhere in all our lakes. It’s very tough. I’m just doing what I can.”

A spokesperson with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said in an email to the Free Press that the culvert under Highway 24 was inspected by a ministry engineer and found to be “in good condition and flowing well, with water levels equal on both sides of the highway.”

It also stated it would not replace culverts unless there is an impact to our highway infrastructure. “This is a complex area that would require significant study and understanding before considering a change in the culvert,” the email states. “Making changes to culverts between lakes and rivers can significantly impact other properties, water licenses, wells and agricultural operations in the area, so the ministry would need to evaluate the situation carefully and work with other agencies and local government before considering any long-term changes.”

The Ministry of Environment blames the extensive flooding throughout the Cariboo this year on exceptionally wet spring weather conditions and the fact that “Sheridan Lake’s watershed continues to be impacted by wildfires, which are well known to increase runoff rates post-wildfire. Sheridan Lake levels are not controlled by a dam and, as such, are subject to weather conditions,” a ministry spokesperson said in an email to the Free Press.

Al Richmond, Director for Area G (Lac La Hache – 108 Mile Ranch) said a dam inspector was heading to Lac La Hache to inspect weir levels.

“They’re telling me there’s very little they can do because all the lakes are high in the Cariboo,” Richmond said, noting even the creek feeding 108 Lake is still flowing. “We’ve had lot of issues this year with water. It’s trying when there’s nothing you can do. They have nowhere to send the water to, to divert it.”

Scrimshaw disagrees. “They can talk all they want about all these things but somebody stuck a four by 65-foot culvert in a lake with a billion litres of water,” he said. “Each lake has its own unique circumstances and the onus is on the government to address them uniquely.

“The government has been put on notice. We’ve all been caught by surprise this year but now they’re in the position to do something and prevent future losses. People aren’t just going to shut up and disappear. Homes and cottages and businesses are at stake.”

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