Merritt to use massive 170 m blow-up dam to temporarily move river back after flood | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Merritt to use massive 170 m blow-up dam to temporarily move river back after flood

FILE PHOTO - Merritt will be using a massive bladder dam, like this one pictured in Kelowna from 2017, to divert the Coldwater River.

After a flood event in Merritt caused the Coldwater River to change course last week, the city will use a giant tiger dam to temporarily return it to its original state.

Greg Lowis, director of corporate services with the city, said the Coldwater River has moved about a block to the west in the city from its original location.

“This poses some significant challenges to the wastewater treatment plant because the river courses between the public works yard and the infiltration basins. There’s a lot of pipes and cables which link those two facilities so the river being in a different place causes a lot of problems,” he said.

Moving a river is also a huge task so there are no long-term plans to move it permanently as various consultations will need to be done with private property owners, the city and First Nations groups, he said.

“The plan at this point is to put in a tiger dam, which is basically a big inflatable balloon which you pump water into and it becomes a solid wall,” he said. “This will temporarily, probably, push the water back into the former river bed.”

“Even as a temporary solution, it is going to be a massive undertaking,” Lowis said, adding that city officials estimate it will be at least 170 metres long. “And that’s just the minimum length, never mind the depth or the height.”

The city doesn’t have that large of a tiger dam on hand but the plan is being investigated and public works crews are working to get the necessary equipment, he said.

The city is currently under an evacuation order as it is still without a wastewater treatment plant and clean drinking water.

The pumps are running at Merritt’s wastewater treatment plant and sewer lines are being flushed, but Lowis said there is still a way off from treating water.

“Anything that goes into Merritt’s sewage system is just being sucked through and passed straight into that dry river bed,” Lowis said.

There isn’t a specific timeframe for when the treatment plant will be back online, but a well drinking-water system in the Bench community has had positive results. “We’re optimistic that it’s at least measured in days for some of the town but we don’t have a firm date when we can bring people back,” Lowis said.

Rapid damage assessments have been conducted on properties affected by the floods and property owners will be notified tomorrow, Nov. 22, he said.

Houses are given coloured cards to show the level of damage. Green means re-entry into the home is permitted if an evacuation order is not in place, a yellow card means access is restricted and a red card means residents should not enter the property unless authorized to do so by the jurisdictional authority.

READ MORE: Princeton mayor 'apprehensive' about days ahead during flood recovery efforts

Lowis didn’t have a specific number for homes that were severely damaged by floods, but he said there were fewer red tags than they expected.

An update on Merritt’s flood situation will also be given by Mayor Linda Brown tonight at 6 p.m. via the city’s Facebook page.

- This story was corrected at 9:11 p.m. as the city will update homeowners on the status of their homes tomorrow, Nov. 22, not today, Nov. 21.

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