British Columbia

Dam owner warned before Oliver mudslide

A report into last month's landslide in B.C.'s Okanagan Valley says the owner responsible for a dam that burst had been issued several repair warnings.

Report says no indication owner made repairs despite ministry concerns

A report into a massive landslide in B.C.'s Okanagan Valley says the owner responsible for a dam that burst and sent the river of debris down the mountainside had been issued several repair warnings.

The B.C. government report into the Oliver landslide June 13 says there was a consistent pattern of concerns and warnings issued by the Ministry of Environment to make repairs.

However, the report says there's no indication they were acted upon, and no indication the owner was being held accountable to make the necessary repairs.

Five houses were demolished, two others damaged and several farms destroyed when a mass of water, mud, trees and other debris went crashing down a local hillside.

The B.C. government is looking for additional "compensation options" for the Oliver-area residents affected by the mudslide and flood, B.C. Public Safety Minister Michael de Jong said Wednesday.

De Jong said the provincial government was accepting all 12 recommendations from the deputy solicitor general's review of the incident.

The disaster resulted from the failure of an irrigation reservoir known as the Testalinden Dam, which breached an 80-year-old earth embankment and flooded the nearby area.

"The review highlights evidence of a consistent pattern of concerns and warnings about the state of the Testalinden Dam dating back to the 1960s," said de Jong. "We cannot turn back time or change what has happened, but going forward, we will ensure communities are better protected from this kind of risk.

"As well, we are currently looking at possible ways to build on existing compensation programs for either remediating or purchasing properties."

The review was written by David Morhart, deputy minister for public safety, who was appointed to investigate the slide by de Jong. Recommendations include a full review and updating of dam safety regulations, including the consequence classification tool that rates risk potential.

Officials with the Ministry of Forests and Land confirmed they were warned about a possible breach of the dam just a few days before, after it was spotted by a hiker, but said the report did not characterize the situation as an emergency.

De Jong said at the time that even though some of the dams are on Crown land, the primary responsibility for their safety still rests with those who operate them.

With files from The Canadian Press