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Elphinstone Avenue flooded during SCRD well tests

Jan. 9, Elphinstone Avenue resident Evie Jordan-Knox watched what she described as another round of water draining from the Sunshine Coast Regional District's (SCRD) Church Road well field running down  a "new stream bed" flood down her street.
Elphinstone Avenue as seen at about 2 p.m. Jan. 9.

Updated Jan 11 at 8 a.m. 

Just after 9 a.m. on Jan. 9, Elphinstone Avenue resident Evie Jordan-Knox watched what she described as a "new stream bed" flood down her street.  The source of the flow was water being drained from testing at the Sunshine Coast Regional District's (SCRD) Church Road well field.

Chris Harvey, who works under contract with the SCRD at the well field site told Coast Reporter that the initial discharge of water from the site’s reservoir was scheduled to start that morning as part of preparing the well field for use. He estimated that about 130 cubic metres of water was released. The pump out was completed over a span of four hours, with the process paused once as personnel onsite waited for Capilano Highway’s crews to arrive to address the impacts of the water flow along the road. The road re-opened to single-lane traffic later that evening.

"The SCRD has met with our contractor and the design engineer to ensure they are aware that yesterday’s release of water could have been undertaken in a manner which would have resulted in less impact in the area. As soon as the SCRD was made aware of the issue, the SCRD immediately transported rocks to stabilize the area and worked with Capilano Highways to create a temporary ditch at the side of the road," the regional district's communications manager Aidan Buckley wrote in a Jan. 10 email. 

“Our road is just a mess. We have heavy erosion from water being piped directly down Elphinstone,” said Jordan-Knox. She stated she has lived on Elphinstone Avenue for 14 years and flooding issues have “never, ever been this bad.”

Jordan-Knox reported that the discharged water disturbed the soft-packed gravel shoulder that was installed over the past summer’s rebuild of the road infrastructure in conjunction with the well field project. That, she said, appeared to have contributed to undermining of the paved portion of the road, rendered on-street parking areas unusable and deposited washed-out gravel and other debris onto the driving surface. 

She stated the discharge events have also led to “pooling of water and saturation of our properties.”

In an interview on Jan. 6, Harvey indicated his plan for discharging the water was to “try to keep it throttled back as best I can, but I anticipate that when I open that valve there will be road runoff and erosion.” In draining water for mains and from in the treatment plant over the past weeks, Harvey said release velocities were kept under 10 litres per second and “that still created significant issues for residents.”  According to Buckley, SCRD staff reported the Jan. 9 water release was done at a rate of approximately 10 litres a second.

More planned water releases 

“Over the coming weeks there will be two or three discharge cycles with the reservoir, and we will be having some discharge with testing of the pumps on three or four more occasions,” said Harvey. Neither Harvey nor the SCRD was able to provide a date when testing will be finished or when the well field will be commissioned.

Buckley confirmed that no additional water releases were planned for Jan. 10 and that any future ones would be authorized at a controlled rate and monitored by the contractor for downstream impacts.

“These tests are done by professionals, both SCRD staff and contractors. The water discharge is done carefully, utilizing existing drainage systems when appropriate to do so,” he stated.  

Drainage improvements in the works

Capilano Highways launched efforts to deal with the road drainage situation on Jan. 4. Spokesperson Tyler Lambert stated that a sandbag curb has been created down the route to control erosion of the driving surface shoulder. In addition, ditching was added to control water at the base of the road. 

At the direction of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI), “We plan to begin culvert installation and rip rap work in the next few weeks from Reed Road and all the way down Elphinstone,” he said. In his email Buckley stated that there is no firm date for Capilano Highways to complete improvements.

The addition of culverts was something Elphinstone Avenue residents were hoping to see when road infrastructure was rebuilt in the fall of 2022 in conjunction with the SCRD’s development of the well field project. In an email to the SCRD and shared with Coast Reporter, Elphinstone Avenue resident Sarah MacDonald stated, “culverts that sat at the top of Church Road throughout much of the construction period seemed to suggest that finally, a long-term solution was in the plans. Unfortunately, those culverts were removed and nothing was done to provide better drainage” she wrote.

Area residents requested a meeting with SCRD staff to discuss their concerns. In an email response to residents on Jan. 4, SCRD staff declined to arrange an in-person gathering for the group. The message provided updates on meetings held by SCRD staff with MOTI and Capilano Highways representatives and committed to ensuring that any drainage issues on Elphinstone Avenue, Reed Road and Fisher Road "are being addressed in a collaborative manner.” Since Dec. 26 four such meetings have been held.  

Well field discharge not the only problem

Buckley also commented on the importance of having work and testing completion of the well site and pump station improvements as originally scheduled. "Once completed, this well field will add up to five-million litres of water per day to the Chapman Water System and will play an integral role to securing long term water supply on the Sunshine Coast," he wrote. 

Several residents also reached out to the SCRD Director for their area, Kate Louise Stamford. Along with sharing updates that she had received from staff on the matter, she responded with, “I am building up my background about the ongoing drainage problems in your neighbourhood and how the actions of the Ministry of Transportation, Capilano Highways and the Regional District inter-relate.  The biggest surprise is that drainage problems have been going on to various degrees for a decade or more, so one way or another, it needs to be fixed and I will continue to advocate for a permanent resolution.”

The heavy snow and rainfall events that drenched the Coast in late December 2022 caused flooding and erosion under road surface edges along Elphinstone Avenue. Resident Randy Pflueger reported that on Dec. 26 despite multiple calls to the SCRD and Capilano Highways, crews were not dispatched to the area to help out. That left the residents, many of them senior citizens, “to spent hours shovelling and sweeping” debris and re-routing water flows to protect their properties.