The latest of three natural disasters to hit their property in a little over a year has the owners of Bar FX Ranch near Merritt wondering when the province will step up.
A brief torrential downpour on August 23 triggered a mudslide spread silt and gravel across their fields and those of neighbours in the Nicola Valley.
“We knew that due to the wildfire of last summer, August 2021, and the terrain we have, that we were potentially at risk for seeing some debris flow. But we had no idea how bad it was going to be,” says Rhonda MacDonald, who operates Bar FX with her husband Wayne.
She was working outside by the house while Wayne and a neighbour were checking fields on the other side of the Nicola River. She headed inside when the rain intensified but after 10 minutes it eased and she started to pressure wash the side of the house.
“I went back out and heard a noise that sounded like wind blowing. So, I glanced up the hill expecting to see trees moving up there from wind up top,” she says. “They weren’t moving, and I didn’t give it another thought.”
A few short minutes later, her dog barked, and MacDonald turned to watch mud flowing down the driveway towards the house.
“I had the Bobcat at the house so, I hopped in it and started pushing mud off the road as it was coming down. I was only thinking about the house at that point,” she says. “I drove through the fence to keep pushing it. It was quite thick, and I didn’t want to build a berm at the fence.”
Once the mud stopped flowing down the driveway, MacDonald began pushing mud, rocks and logs out of the yard. The debris flow spared their house but their hay field is now “18 acres of rocks and debris” and the ranch is back to “square one” – recovery mode, just like it was a year ago.
“We have two excavators working out there,” MacDonald says. “We’re windrowing the debris that’s out there. Basically, putting it vertically straight down the river so that should we get another debris flow, it will just send it straight to the river.”
The family and four neighbours also affected by the mudslide say the province has yet to contact them about financial support. The recovery program announced in February to assist growers impacted by last November’s flooding and mudslides stopped accepting applications at the end of August.
“The crappiest part is that so far, the provincial government, even though this is directly wildfire related, doesn’t have any AgriRecovery programs in place for it,” MacDonald says.
On August 31, BC Ministry of Agriculture and Food stated that staff members were providing ongoing support to Emergency Management BC, Shackan First Nation, Bar FX Ranch, Thompson Nicola Regional District and the impacted producers.
“Impacts reported last week were power outages, downed fences, and widespread but shallow debris flows impacting agricultural lands (pasture, hay fields, etc.),” the ministry says. “There were no significant impacts to livestock, but the ministry has supported with the relocation and emergency feed for a small number of impacted horses from the Bar FX ranch.”