Four Conwayville property owners have filed a civil suit against the District of Lillooet for damages they allege were caused by the District's negligent actions and failure to anticipate the flooding and slope failure on Mountainview Road last winter.
Lynn Albertson, Betty Flegel, Elaine Meiklem and Lacey LaRochelle filed the suit May 11 in Kamloops Supreme Court.
The four plaintiffs are seeking:
General damages, including the full market value of their homes
Diminution in value (the difference between the sale value of the their properties before the slope failure and flooding, and the sale value after those events)
Alternatively, the cost of hazard mitigation for their properties, including all surface or drainage improvement costs, repair and removal of the buildings to a safe site, and replacement costs of the buildings at a new location within the District of Lillooet.
Special damages, including transportation, rental, clean-up and utility costs
Because of the flooding and erosion, the District ordered Meiklem, LaRochelle and LaRochelle's brother Cory to evacuate their Garden Street homes on Dec. 1, 2011. They were not able to return and live in the houses, which are no longer safe. Albertson and Flegel's homes have been on evacuation alert since Dec. 1.
The suit claims that groundwater seepage from spring run-off and from a spring at Mountainview Road is an historic problem dating back nearly 20 years and the District of Lillooet knew of the seepage in the months and years prior to November 2011.
“The flow of water, including water from the spring, increased in the period November 2011 to January 2012, causing slope failure on the east side of Mountainview Road resulting in water, mud and debris being carried or washed down onto the property of the plaintiffs,” the suit claims.
The suit says the District also knew, or should have known, that forest fires in the surrounding hills had eliminated the natural ground cover, leading to more groundwater run-off.
The plaintiffs maintain the water problem and slope failure were brought to the District's attention but it failed or refused to take adequate steps to remedy the problem and protect the plaintiffs' property until it was too late.
The suit also alleges that, in 2011, the District diverted, or took part in the diversion, of Town Creek by having an excavator dig a channel to divert the creek away from the T'it'q'et Community toward the plaintiffs' properties.
“The defendant knew, or ought to have known, that this creek diversion could, or had the potential to, add to the groundwater seepage through or under the Mountainview Road grade” onto the plaintiffs' property, the 15-page document states. The Statement of Claim also alleges the municipality participated in the diversion without obtaining proper engineering reports.
It also claims the District did not take any steps to study or determine the effect of the Town Creek diversion when combined with the annual snow melt and run-off, and the elimination of the ground cover and root systems caused by the forest fires in the area. The statement adds that the municipality knew, “or ought to have known,” that its storm drain system was old, inadequate and clogged and in need of upgrading for better capacity.
The suit also says the District failed to warn the plaintiffs of the hazard lurking above their homes and failed to assist them, including failing to provide financial assistance to protect their land and buildings.
The District of Lillooet has referred the claim to the Municipal Insurance Association of BC, which is now acting on the municipality's behalf. The District declined any additional comment on the matter.
According to the Statement of Claim, it has 21 days from receipt of the Statement of Claim to formally respond.