Thomas Bravais at his property in Cokato, which was flooded in November last year and is now underneath feet of silt left behind. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Thomas Bravais at his property in Cokato, which was flooded in November last year and is now underneath feet of silt left behind. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Cokato landowner points finger at CP Rail after being left high and dry from historic flooding

CP are denying responsibility for silt left behind by floodwaters diverted by blocked CP culverts last year

A Cokato landowner is calling out CP Rail (CP) for breaking what he believes was a promise to help clear silt and debris left behind by the November 2021 floods.

The land owned by Thomas Bravais and his partner is between the CP line and the eastern side of the Elk Valley in eastern B.C., with multiple culverts underneath the line to allow water to flow from the hills and creeks to the east, into the Elk River in the middle of the valley.

During province-wide torrential rain storms on Nov. 15, 2021, three culverts under the line near his property were plugged by debris, diverting floodwaters along the rail line and eventually through his land after being blocked by another overwhelmed culvert under a road beside his property.

Water diverted by blocked CP culverts ran along the ditch beside the line (pictured), which six months later is still full of silt and debris. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Water diverted by blocked CP culverts ran along the ditch beside the line (pictured), which six months later is still full of silt and debris. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

While the water was gone the next day after CP crews cleared the culverts, it brought with it – and left behind – silt that is feet-deep in sections.

Muck when wet, dust when dry and of no nutritional value for growing anything, the melting snow should have turned to green grass, but instead his yard is a dark moonscape of sand.

Thomas Bravais’ yard during the flooding on November 15 and 16 last year. (Image courtesy of Thomas Bravais)

Thomas Bravais’ yard during the flooding on November 15 and 16 last year. (Image courtesy of Thomas Bravais)

“It’s useless,” said Bravais.

“When it dries out, its like Koocanusa – it’s dust. The wind picks it up and it’s like the desert.”

Thomas Bravais with a handful of the silt covering his land. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Thomas Bravais with a handful of the silt covering his land. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Bravais said that CP has recently backed out of verbal assurances they would help clean up made immediately after the flood. The alternative to hire professionals with necessary equipment isn’t an option, and too costly, added Bravais.

“(CP) asked us when we would like the cleanup done – last November, early December, or in the Spring. I said there was no point last year because it was frozen solid, they wouldn’t be able to get it off the ground. That was my mistake, I should have asked them to come right away. Six months later, they want to walk out of it.”

Half of Bravais’ property remains locked under the silt, which he said will take he and his partner all summer to remove themselves. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Half of Bravais’ property remains locked under the silt, which he said will take he and his partner all summer to remove themselves. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

In an email from a CP community relations employee that Bravais shared with The Free Press, the November storm was described as “a rare significant event that washed out the road upstream from our tracks.

“Any blockages of CP’s culverts was the result of debris coming from the washed out roadway and the properties upstream.”

During the flood, nearby Cokato Road was washed out by Cokato Creek. Meanwhile, the hills above the flooding have seen clear-cut logging– which Bravais assumes is where all the silt has come from.

But CP didn’t just throw blame on neighbours upstream, but downstream as well, claiming that the land where the culverts drained had been raised by the neighbours on other side of the line.

“The alterations has hinders [sic] the ability for the water to flow to the Elk River and subsequently causes water to back up upstream.

“There is no further action required by CP at this time.”

One of the culverts under the CP line near Bravais’ property in Cokato. While it was cleared the day after the flood, here it appears to be full of silt and rocks again as of April 2022. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

One of the culverts under the CP line near Bravais’ property in Cokato. While it was cleared the day after the flood, here it appears to be full of silt and rocks again as of April 2022. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Bravais isn’t convinced, saying that CP’s own infrastructure was a threat to his property.

“(CP) owns a dam that runs through Canada. They have to make sure all the neighbours are not being flooded.”

Half of their two-acre property is under silt, and without any help from CP, Bravais said that he and his partner would take all summer removing it themselves.

“If it happens again, what do we do?”

When contacted by The Free Press for comment on the matter, a CP spokesperson said that any suggestion that CP had promised to clean private property following the November storm was inaccurate.

READ MORE: Fernie handed ‘surprise’ $30k invoice for way crossing work



scott.tibballs@thefreepress.ca
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