More than 20 months after a washout near Lower Road triggered a local state of emergency in the Roberts Creek and Elphinstone areas, on Oct. 16 the ravine near the road began caving in again, property owners say.
Environment Canada recorded 72.5 millimetres of rain on Oct. 16, as gravel pushed by the water from Whittaker Creek partially buried a small blue cabin at 2016 Ocean Beach Esplanade up to its deck -- and not for the first time. The cabin was one of the properties under an evacuation order in February 2020.
Normally, the deck is high enough from the ground that a person can stand underneath it, Paul Hollobon, whose family owns the cabin, told Coast Reporter. Now, gravel deposited after the recent rains is almost level with the western portion of the deck, and piled on the beach.
“Right now, the cabin is not only in a precarious position in that it’s buried, it could easily be pushed off its foundation, but also there’s a moisture issue now, too,” Hollobon said. “I can only imagine how much moisture is in the cabin at this point. Structurally, I think it’s at risk, but also just from a mold perspective or mildew perspective, it’s at risk.”
The small blue cabin holds sentimental value for Hollobon’s family. It was originally built by his grandfather in the 1950s.
Hollobon said he hired an excavator in 2020 to dig out the mouth of Whittaker Creek, with permission from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), and the area around the cabin was hand-dug to remove debris.
“And then this year, again, we had another washout which basically undid all that work,” he said on Oct. 29. “We had to take matters into our own hands, again, to try to save the property.”
He and some of his neighbours paid out of pocket to repeat the debris removal in October, and Hollobon said they were able to get the permits from DFO reinstated. Neighbours at a nearby property built a rockwall to keep the water and debris at bay.
The affected property owners have shared their concerns with the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD), but the regional district says it does not fall under its jurisdiction.
In February 2020, the SCRD activated an Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) to coordinate resources and agencies, including FortisBC and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI), when parts of Lower Road and Ocean Beach Esplanade flooded. But this time, the SCRD said an EOC has not been activated “as this level of coordination is not required.”
“The current response is being led by MOTI as it is in their jurisdiction and involves MOTI infrastructure,” Dean McKinley, the SCRD’s chief administration officer, said. “The SCRD is in contact with MOTI and is ready to assist with any requests from MOTI.”
In a Nov. 3 statement to Coast Reporter, MOTI said, “While there is no immediate threat to the integrity of Lower Road, the ministry continues to actively monitor the slope below Lower Road.”
In the coming weeks, the ministry will have its geotechnical engineer undertake a site assessment to determine if any further action is needed.
Hollobon said he’s concerned not only about the safety of the cabin and his neighbours, but also about Whittaker Creek and Lower Road. Although no one was in his family’s cabin at the time the debris was deposited in 2020 or 2021, Hollobon said he would not feel safe staying there during the rainy season.