Bank erosion forces evacuations west of Merritt

By Chad Klassen
May 18, 2017 - 12:30pm Updated: May 18, 2017 - 5:45pm

MERRITT, B.C. — More flood concerns are coming to light in the Southern Interior.

The Thompson Nicola Regional District has declared a local state of emergency for Area 'N' - Nicola Valley-South.

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Information Officer Mike Garrett says the Nicola River is rising to dangerous levels.

"This will give us the authority to perform emergency work. Specifically, it enables work on the Nicola River, to protect four properties that are on Nooaitch Band land, and on Petit Creek Road," said Garrett.

Garrett says the TNRD is concerned about a sunny, warm forecast for the days ahead, which could accelerate the snowmelt and cause rivers to rise even further.

Excavators are working on the banks of the Nicola River about 20 kilometers west of Merritt. 

The goal is to redirect the flow away from a river bank that has eroded and continues to slough forcing two homes to be evacuated, leaving four people without a home. 

"They're staying in town, and where they live is a very dangerous situation," said Nooaitch Emergency Officer Joy Sam, speaking to the condition of two homes that are evacuated. "The bank has sloughed right off, and if this weather keeps going, the bank might slough off even more and cause possibly the two houses to go down river."

It's all part of a Local State of Emergency in TNRD 'Area N,' impacting members of Nooiatch First Nation. Devona Sutherland lives in one of two other homes next door under Evacuation Alert. 

"I'm not too worried," said Sutherland. "I hear the workers working every day down there, trying to make it better. I think if we do have to get evacuated, we'd have enough notice to get all our belongings."

It's her cousin and uncle's houses that are at risk of going into the river with further erosion. 

"It's sad. I hope they're able to go back," noted Sutherland. "It's a family home, and hopefully they will be allowed to go back. 

The Nooiatch First Nation is working to keep the four homes safe. Staff will be working during the long weekend, knowing waters will likely rise some more with the summer-like weather. 

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