Heavy rain and strong winds combined with high tide overnight Sunday, September 11 flooded out fishers and campers along the Kitimat River.
The RCMP say twelve people were rescued via boat and two by helicopter, mostly along the Big Spruce bank. The RCMP say all are currently accounted for, although police say they will have to check the riverbanks once the water levels drop in about 48 hours.
Kitimat Search and Rescue, Kitimat Fire and Rescue, RCMP and Terrace Swift Water Rescue participated in the operation.
The RCMP is asking the public to contact them about concerns about people who may be overdue or possibly missing at 205-632-7111.
It is estimated that the river quickly rose about four metres. The rising water made it impossible for some people to retreat to the Dyke Road.
The first calls for help came to RCMP about 2 am Monday, with more around 3:30 am and the rescue began at first light about five hours later.
Environment Canada issued a heavy rainfall warning at noon on Sunday, calling for at least 66 millimetres of rain. It appears that some of the campers were either not aware of the warning or thought they could ride out the storm.
Perhaps as many as a dozen recreational vehicles were flooded or swept into the river, along with a pickup truck and a small car.
Some of those who were evacuated from the riverbanks were sheltered at the Riverlodge Recreation Centre.
Environmental and fisheries officials will be checking for any pollution in the river once conditions are safe.
The District of Kitimat is warning people to stay away from the riverbanks since the swift water can quickly destablize the soil along the river. The District has closed Radley Park and Hirsh Creek parks for the remainder of the season. The Dyke Road and Big Spruce roads are also closed.
Seaspan ULC, the large BC-based marine transportation and shipbuilding company is keeping its on eye on future opportunities in Kitimat and along Douglas Channel, chief executive officer Jonathan Whitworth said Tuesday.
Whitworth was in Kitimat to meet members of the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue Unit 63, which operates from the Nechako Dock.
He also met with members of the Haisla Nation while he was in town.
Kitimat SAR 63 is one of six stations which will receive $8,500 a year for three years, to help cover operating expenses, from the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, based in Missoula, MT. Seaspan is part of the Washington group of companies, that has holdings on the west coast of Canada and the United States, owned principally by Dennis Washington.
At the moment, Whitworth said, Seaspan operates the HaiSea in partnership with the Haisla Nation. “It’s a boat that you will see up and down the Channel, she does a lot of work for RTA as well as some of the others, mainly from the construction and the up and coming constrution from the new projects. We take a lot of time and effor to make sure our equipment looks good as well as operates well. That’s the kind of pride our crew puts in the vessels and the company supports.” he said. Seaspan barges are also used for the construction projects currently under way in Kitimat.
Whitworth said that while Douglas Channel is not yet “packed on the water,” shipping will likely increase in the coming years. “There are two big dominoes to fall, the first one is any of these big projects being talked about that are going to increase shipping in the Douglas Channel, be
it Chevron or Shell or the BC LNG project. They need to get approval first, that hasn’t happened yet. We understand it may be within the next six to twelve months before we hear some announcements. When that goes ahead, we can start looking at building new boats, be it escort tugs, or docking vessels, or additional vessels… That will help up us to know the time for when we need to deliver new boats for the Douglas Channel.”
Seaspan has always had a close relationship with the Canadian Coast Guard, Whitworth said and that relationship is even closer now that the Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards, was chosen by the federal government for the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy for non combat vessels. In February, the federal government announced (pdf) a series of preliminary contracts valued at a total of $15.7 million for the joint support ships, the CCGS John G. Diefenbaker polar icebreaker and the offshore fisheries science vessels.
The Washington Foundation is giving a multi-year donation of $1.1 million to three British Columbia marine and port community charitable organizations. Partnering with Sail and Life Training Society (SALTS), Vancouver Maritime Museum (VMM) and Royal Canadian Marine Search & Rescue (RCM-SAR).
Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue received $300,000 over three years. “Half of it $150,000 when to Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue Sooke training facility on Vancouver Island, that benefits all of the different stations in BC, they all get a chance to go train and at that training centre,” Whitworth said. “The remaining funds, the $150,000 was spread between six stations that are closely associated with Seaspan, so two in Vancouver harbour, North Vancouver, West Vancouver, two on the Fraser River, one at Delta and one at Richmond, one at Victoria and one right here in Douglas Channel in Kitimat.” The $8,500 covers approximately 35 per cent of the operating costs for Kitimat’s SAR 63 station every year for three years.
The Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation’s charitable donations are the organization’s first direct donation of their kind in Canada. Since its inception, the Washington Foundation has donated more than $144 million in the United States to hundreds of organizations that focus on education, health and human services, arts and culture, and community service.
Mike Halligan, Executive Director of the Washington Foundation, says today’s announcementis the start of an exciting inaugural collaboration with Canadian charitable organizations in British Columbia.
Kitimat’s SAR 63 operates along Douglas Channel and down the Inside Passage as far as Butedale. Training takes place every Wednesday evening at the SAR 63 boathouse at the Nechako Dock. The unit will be recruiting new members in September. Anyone interested can contact training officer Duncan Peacock.
Rex Murphy, writing in The National Post is fully justified in his rant Saturday against more search and rescue cutbacks in Newfoundland by the Harper government. Since it involves his beloved “Rock,” my former colleague is at his rhetorical best (and as the northwest knows the BC coast faces equally dumb cutbacks here)
Scarcely had Mr. Harper captured the PM’s job again, this time as a
majority leader in the last election, when one of his ministers came out
with the equally ludicrous decision to move search-and-rescue
operations: Last week, it was announced that the co-ordination centre in
St. John’s (along with one in Quebec City) was slated for termination,
with services relocated to Halifax and Trenton, Ont.
And according to reports circulating this week, the Department of
National Defence’s search-and-rescue services might soon be privatized.
(Currently, the job is done in partnership between DND and the Coast
Guard, which is overseen by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans). If
that happens, there’s no telling where the services would be relocated.
What is in the air in Ottawa? How do such absurd notions take root in
the federal mind? Would they ever take similar steps in regard to, say,
the regulation of Lake Ontario shipping?
Search and Rescue is not some toy service. It concerns life and
death. And considering the tragedies that fret the history of the
province over the centuries, this would not only be a wrong decision,
but an offensive one, as well.
Rex is certainly right on this issue, but wrong about the weather, when he says about Newfoundland being special:
Newfoundland is unique. It stands alone, shrouded in impenetrable mists and answering to the rhythms of its own weather gods. Newfoundland weather is not a little like the world of subatomic physics; a buzz of random and paradoxical probabilities, a thing that may be observed but not measured or, contrariwise, measured but not observed, and not either, ever, from Halifax. It is a wonder and a despair.
The weather along the BC coast has been shrouded in impenetrable mists for most of this summer (if you can call it summer).
The decision by Coast Guard bureaucrats to replace the (70 foot, 21 metre) Point Henry in Prince Rupert with a smaller, (47 foot, 14 metre) open motor life boat and the similar move in Campbell River replace the Point Race was protested up and down the coast, and almost cost Vancouver Island North MP John Duncan his seat in the May election. Duncan, of course, is toeing the Conservative party line now that he is safely back in the Commons.
The decisions on both coasts are equally dumb. The ocean is as dangerous in Newfoundland as on the BC coast.
But Rex spoils his rant with his own dumb ideological conclusion:
My only explanation is that it serves to illustrate this unshakeable
axiom: Some decisions are so dumb that only governments can make them.
Northwest BC has had been the victim of many really dumb decisions by the private, corporate sector over the years and those dumb decisions are responsible for the economic decline of the region (with no help from government). The difference should be that government decisions may be influenced and changed by the electorate. There are no checks or balances on corporate decisions.
So if Rex is right and search and rescue is privatized, becomes some sort of for-profit venture, what dumb decisions are we going to hear from the CEO of SARCAN LLC? Checking someone’s credit score before launching a rescue?