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B.C. deploys helicopters to extract debris from flood-struck rivers

Lifts begin from Nicola, Thompson and Coldwater Rivers
The B.C. government is crowd-sourcing pictures and locations like this one of debris from the November flooding in southern Interior waterways. (Ministry of Environment)

The B.C. government is expanding its helicopter debris recovery program along rivers where last November’s torrential rains and flooding have left mountains of trees, structures and vehicles in remote areas.

The environment ministry announced Tuesday that helicopters are being flown along the Thompson and Coldwater Rivers to find safe places to remove debris from the air, extending an effort on the Nicola River, where sections of Highway 8 were washed away and the Shackan and Nooaitch reserves were left isolated by the destruction.

The province has collected aerial and ground photos of the affected river valleys, and identified more than 270 pieces of debris along waterways in the B.C. southern Interior. Helicopter work is to begin April 13 along Spius Creek, a tributary of the Nicola River west of Merritt, continuing to April 18.

“From flights, site visits and communications with First Nations in the area and local government, the ministry is aware of numerous large human-made debris in the river system, including roads, bridges, buildings, vehicles and sea-cans,” the environment ministry said in a statement April 12.

Receding snow cover in the affected regions is revealing sites in need of remediation, including masses of trees and natural debris swept away by floods and landslides. Helicopters will be needed particularly along the Thompson River, where much of the waterway is not accessible to ground crews.

The province has established an information website on the ministry’s response, and an interactive debris map with a public reporting tool where people can submit photos and locations of debris.

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