British Columbia

B.C. ranchers still waiting for hay, financial assistance after Chilcotin River flood

Ranchers in the Chilcotin are becoming impatient as they continue to wait for feed and financial compensation promised to them by the provincial government after the Chilcotin River flooded in July. 

Not enough feed for cattle this winter after hay crops destroyed in province's Interior

Ranches near Big Creek, located in B.C.'s southern Interior northwest of Kamloops, were covered by brown flood water from the Chilcotin River in early July. (Randy Saugstad)

Ranchers in B.C.'s Chilcotin region are becoming impatient as they continue to wait for feed and financial compensation promised by the provincial government after the Chilcotin River, located about 80 kilometres west of Williams Lake in the southern Interior, flooded in July. 

The river which runs 241 kilometres through ranch land overflowed last summer damaging an estimated 120 properties. Shortly after it happened, the B.C., government made disaster financial assistance available for those who were unable to get insurance to cover their disaster-related losses.

At a meeting about two weeks after the flood, residents were told they would get the hay they needed after it had been destroyed by floodwaters. 

"We were putting in our order," Big Creek resident Randy Saugstad told Daybreak Kamloops host Shelley Joyce. He's been eagerly awaiting hay, as he lost about two thirds of his crop because of this flood. 

"We haven't had one bit of help."

A ranch in Big Creek, B.C., is overwhelmed by flood water from the Chilcotin River in early July 2019. Assistance promised to residents of Big Creek after the flood hasn't materialized. (Randy Saugstad)

This comes as a surprise to Saugstad because when hay crops were compromised in 2017 because of wildfires, hay arrived very quickly. 

Cariboo Chilcotin MLA and Liberal rural development critic Donna Barnett met with ranchers in the Big Creek area last week to find out what residents need, and how she could help.  

"It is devastating out there," she said. 

Barnett echoed the dire need for animal feed. 

"We could lose a whole community if we don't get some help with feed," she said. Her main concern is that without feed for cows, the price of beef will go down and there will be no cattle for next year. 

Barnett sent a letter this week to Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth requesting immediate action on providing assistance to her constituents. 

"It is a disaster — I cannot explain the situation any other way," it reads. "The ranching community in the Cariboo-Chilcotin need emergency assistance now."

The Chilcotin River spans 241 kilometres, and is located 80 kilometres west of Williams Lake, B.C. (Google Maps)

The letter calls for 12,000 metric tonnes of hay for residents in Big Creek, Anahim Lake, West Chilcotin and Chezacut, all of which were impacted by flooding this summer. 

"Should their request be denied the cattle industry in the Cariboo-Chilcotin will not only be at risk, but many ranches will disappear," the letter says.  

A still from video posted on Facebook shows a tree being carried down Big Creek, a tributary of the Chilcotin River, west of 100 Mile House, B.C., in July 2019. (Dale C Sherstobitoff/Facebook)

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, which has been dealing with applications for assistance, many applications are still under review because of the extent of the damage and the complexity of the situation. 

In an emailed statement to CBC, the ministry said staff have been in talks with the federal government to find out what other options there are for residents looking for cost recovery.

"We know how difficult this situation is for those who have flood damage and the B.C. government is continuing to work as quickly as we can to help people," the ministry said.