Halalt First Nation breaches rail line to reduce flooding

Culverts to be put in place

The Halalt First Nation has punched two holes on the rail line going through its reserve to mitigate flooding during storm events like the one that struck the region last month, flooding the region. (File photo by Shawn Wagar)

The Halalt First Nation has punched two holes on the rail line going through its reserve to mitigate flooding during storm events like the one that struck the region last month, flooding the region. (File photo by Shawn Wagar)

The Halalt First Nation has taken action to help deal with future flooding events after last month’s catastrophic flooding along the Chemainus River on its land.

Speaking to North Cowichan council on Dec. 16, Mayor Al Siebring said that as part of efforts to mitigate water levels during flooding, the Halalt First Nation has asked that the E&N rail line that runs through the reserve be breached to allow more free-flowing water through.

He said Emergency Management BC agreed and two holes have been punched in the rail line.

“This was done under the understanding that the breaches will be rebuilt by the province under the engineering supervision of the Island Corridor Foundation [which owns the rail line] to standards acceptable to the foundation,” Siebring said.

“That work is now being engineered and may involve placing some culverts in the breaches to prevent the need to have to do this again.”

More than 175 millimetres of rain fell in the Chemainus area over a two day period on Nov. 14-15 as an atmospheric river made its way over southern Vancouver Island, causing the Chemainus River to overflow its banks and flood farms, homes and businesses and closing roads in the area.

Siebring said the two new breaches in the rail line have created other issues in regards to flood mapping along the Chemainus River.

The Cowichan Valley Regional District has recently completed a flood-mapping exercise for the Chemainus River flood plain, but Siebring said that exercise was predicated on the rail line acting as a dam for some of the water flows.

“Now that’s no longer the case and with the culverts in place, it will continue to be no longer the case,” he said.

“The flood-mapping exercise may have to be redone. The CVRD is now in discussions with the province on who will pay for the next round of flood mapping.”

B.C. Floods 2021First Nations