Westwold property owner loses land, barn and bridge in rising river | iNFOnews

The overflowing Salmon River at 8440 Douglas Lake Road in Westwold.

Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Sterett Mercer

May 11, 2023 – 7:00 AM

A property owner in Westwold is losing land and structures after the Salmon River crested on May 6, and is now under a local emergency order with the TNRD.

Strett Mercer, whose primary home is in Burnaby, spent a few harrowing days at the property in Westwold over the weekend as river waters eroded his land, took out a farm bridge and threatened to topple his barn. He said two large trees fell down and were backing up the even more flow, directing more water to the bank edge.

“It was scary, I’ve never seen a river run like that,” he said. “I was with the neighbor, wondering if I should pull everything out of the barn to save it, trying to figure out what to do.”

Mercer hesitated to take action, concerned about provincial regulations around working around rivers and elements of whether the costs of trying to stop the erosion himself would be covered by insurance. He set up a security camera and returned to his Burnaby home to catch up on sleep.

He phoned the Ministry of Forests on Monday morning, May 8 to ask for a permit to do emergency work.

“My neighbor offered to take an excavator down with riprap to try to protect the barn,” he said. “I tried to get approval and was directed to the regional district. There must have been a crew already out there. Within a couple of hours the district had a drone crew out checking the river and then a hydrologist did an assessment.”

Fallen bridge at 8440 Douglas Lake Road, Westwold.

Fallen bridge at 8440 Douglas Lake Road, Westwold.

Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Sterett Mercer

Mercer said the barn and bridge are now being removed to protect the people living downstream.

He bought the property on Douglas Lake Road to build a horse breeding business and eventually moved into it, but he’s already lost over an acre of land to river erosion.

“The point to get across is the whole watershed above me burned and the snow is melting and we’re getting record flooding,” he said. “Looking at imagery from Google Earth I can see what was a stable river for many years changing course during the flooding in 2017 and now again this spring. It’s eroding away land each time.”

READ MORE: Water rising too quickly for some Kamloops homeless campers

Mercer is currently in Burnaby but is going to the Westwold property this weekend to check out the progress on the property. He’s expecting more rising river levels with the warmer temperatures in the forecast. When asked what his plans are going forward, he said he’s “going to cope.”

The declaration of the state of local emergency by the Thompson-Nicola Regional District was issued for Mercer’s property at 8440 Douglas Lake Road in Electoral Area “L” on May 9 and will remain in place until May 15 at midnight “unless canceled by the Thompson -Nicola Regional District or the Minister responsible.”

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