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Excavator breaks up Duhamel Creek ice jam

An excavator was used Tuesday to break up an ice jam on Duhamel Creek that flooded several basements.

Regional District of Central Kootenay emergency operations manager Chris Johnson says ice built up on the creek bed over the last couple of weeks. Although that is not unusual, in this case it was displacing water from the creek, resulting in water pooling on Lower Six Mile Road.

Johnson says “three or four” homes on either side of the creek saw their basements fill up.

“Somebody had a very large skating rink all of a sudden in their front yard from where the water seeped through,” he says. “Lower Six Mile Road itself was becoming inundated by groundwater that was seeping over.”

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Johnson says they met with the Ministry of Forests’ water stewardship branch to discuss what could be done in the creek while meeting all rules and regulations.

With the help of an environmental professional, they hired an equipment operator with an excavator designed to work in streambeds to break up the ice.

While they hoped it would be a small job, the excavator ended up breaking up 150 to 200 metres worth of ice from the lake up to the bridge at Lower Six Mile Road.

“As soon as he hit that last piece at the bridge, a big wash of water came down,” Johnson says. “The water levels on the upstream side of the bridge came down by a couple of feet within minutes. That was really good news.”

Residents who had been using four or five pumps to keep the water at bay found that they only needed one or two to finish draining their basements. The road dried up as well.

Johnson says they’re pleased their solution was successful.

“We were really happy the approach we took worked in the end,” he says.

Although ice jams often build up at this time of year, they often resolve themselves. Johnson says that didn’t seem to be the case this time, however, and “and we were getting what was turning into fairly significant damage to some houses and also that growing threat of water showing up on the road and then from there finding its way down driveways and other homes.”

He says they checked the site again on Wednesday to see if any additional work was required, but everything seemed to be flowing normally.

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