Regional districts want more disaster funding from Emergency Management BC – Boundary Creek Times

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A warning system is being installed on a fire-scorched slope in the British Columbia interior, providing early warning to residents below if the deforested hill gives way in heavy rain.

The province’s $30,000 funding for the system in Sicamous, B.C., is an example that some provincial regional districts say is much better spent on prevention than spending millions reacting to landslides. , fires and floods.

The Regional District of Columbia Shuswap is installing the alert system, and Derek Sutherland, team leader for the district’s Protective Services, said the cost of such projects can be prohibitive.

“They don’t come cheap, but in the absence of any substantial mitigation work, they are much needed,” he said.

Sutherland said he has heard from other districts interested in installing pre-disaster or post-disaster systems, but funding from Emergency Management BC is not available.

Emergency Management BC is part of the Department of Public Safety and coordinates response to disasters including wildfires, floods and landslides.

“EMBC is struggling to fund these early warning systems,” Sutherland said.

The Fraser Valley Regional District passed a motion in February calling on the province and Emergency Management BC to raise the cap on disaster financial assistance, which has not changed in 26 years when the value of properties soared, to help affected homeowners.

“While FVRD staff do not suggest that the province should fully cover the risk of these kinds of events, $300,000 does not come close to meeting the needs of affected residents,” reads the motion approved at the unanimously by the 22 members present at the meeting.

Regional districts are unique in Canada and were created in the mid-1960s to allow greater cooperation between towns or municipalities in the region. They now oversee a variety of services ranging from water supply to regional parks and their boards are usually made up of trustees elected by local governments.

The funding complaints come after wildfires swept through the province last summer, destroying many homes and much of the village of Lytton. Torrential rains then fell across southern British Columbia in November, pushing rivers beyond their breaking point, causing landslides, washing away swaths of highways and flooding communities.

Kevin Skrepnek, director of the Thompson-Nicola Regional District emergency operations center, said the province needs to provide better support before and after natural disasters.

“Generally, where we run into frustrations…is that the current emergency management legislation in the province is very response-oriented,” he said in an interview. “If it’s not an imminent risk or an imminent threat, that’s where it gets into the gray area.”

Skrepnek said regional districts face different challenges than cities or municipalities in securing funding for public works projects.

“Our ability to spend funds on a discretionary basis is very limited.”

For example, Skrepnek said the province will provide sand for sandbags only when a disaster is declared, which can slow down a regional district’s response to a natural disaster like a flood.

Premier John Horgan acknowledged the criticism over the funding at a news conference Thursday, but said the province has a closer relationship with local governments when providing aid.

“I don’t mean to disparage regional districts in my comment, but we have worked with municipal governments who have more capacity to manage these challenges,” he said.

“Emergency Management BC has the infrastructure and capacity to help municipalities during these difficult times.

Horgan agreed that emergency agencies and their resources have been stretched by last year’s disasters.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth is working on updating emergency management legislation and is aware of the concerns, he added.

A statement from Emergency Management BC said it stood ready to help affected districts.

“As we saw with last year’s heat dome, wildfires, floods and landslides, emergency preparedness is key. We have increased BC’s preparedness since forming government precisely because of expert warnings about the impacts of climate change,” the statement said.

– Nick Wells, The Canadian Press

British Columbia

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