White areas of map indicate the floodplain of the Fraser River.

Fraser River risks threaten economy: report

Business groups back urgent action on flood works

A new report underscores the Fraser River’s importance to the Lower Mainland economy and calls for an urgent program of dredging and other flood prevention measures, as well as upgrades to critical infrastructure.

Commissioned by the Richmond Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with other chambers in the region, the study warns the region escaped a very close call in 2007.

“The river came perilously close to overtopping the dikes in the Fraser Valley during the spring freshet,” says the report, which is to be released at a conference today in New Westminster organized by the Fraser Basin Council.

It cites estimates that another flood rivaling the record flood of 1894 would cause tens of billions of dollars in damage and catastrophic losses for the 300,000 residents of the floodplain, as well as business and industry.

Unlike the sparsely populated farmland of 120 years ago, there is now $50 billion worth of development on the Fraser’s floodplain.

“Failure to deal expeditiously with this problem will leave a large part of the Lower Mainland at risk of enormous damage.”

The study comes a few days after new provincial government studies projected major floods will be more frequent and severe as a result of climate change, and warned most dikes in the Fraser Valley are not high enough.

The new research on the influence of climate change and the severe flooding in Calgary and Toronto last year “highlighted the need to act urgently to enhance flood protection along the Lower Fraser,” according to the report released by the business groups.

It notes estimates of $9.5 billion in spending needed in Metro Vancouver to adapt to an expected rise in sea level.

“With rising sea levels, there is a growing threat of winter storm surges that already could overtop the very extensive diking system along the tidal part of the river and adjacent coastal reaches.”

Facing the challenges posed by the river is made more difficult by the fragmented governance of the region, the report said, noting there are 15 municipal governments, 29 first nations and more than 20 provincial or federal ministries involved in administration of the river.

“It is very important that a renewed, collaborative, multi-level government effort be undertaken to renew protection from floods.”

The report echoes concerns raised by Port Metro Vancouver over the loss of industrial land along the river to residential redevelopment projects approved by local cities.

It also calls for ongoing active maintenance dredging of the lower river channels to New Westminster for shipping.

And it describes the replacement of the Massey Tunnel with a bridge as “an urgent priority” in light of its vulnerability to an earthquake and the potential for larger or more heavily laden ships to sail upriver once it’s removed.

It also urges replacement of the aging New Westminster rail bridge, which causes significant delays for freight trains and is vulnerable to be being knocked out of service by a ship collision. A two-track train tunnel under the river has been suggested but there are no concrete plans.

Just Posted

How much does your city spend per person on snow removal?

Black Press Media compares 2018 ice and snow removal budgets of various Lower Mainland communities

B.C. BUDGET: Surplus $374 million after bailouts of BC Hydro, ICBC

Growth projected stronger in 2020, Finance Minister Carole James says

UPDATE: Chilliwack man arrested for Agassiz break and enters

Westin Ferguson, 19, faces charges relating to break and enters throughout Agassiz

Short closures on Agassiz-Rosedale Bridge during pier upgrades

The project comes before the major retrofit of the bridge, which has been in the works since 2017

Preliminary inquiry starts for Chilliwack woman charged in 2016 fatal hit-and-run

Linnea Labbee, 70, accused in Dec. 1, 2016 incident that killed 78-year-old Fourghozaman Firoozian

VIDEO: Wheelchairs teach Agassiz students acceptance through sport

Teacher Donna Gallamore brought wheelchairs to the Kent Elementary for learning and fun

‘Bullet missed me by an inch’: Man recounts friend’s killing at Kamloops hotel

Penticton man witnessed Summerland resident Rex Gill’s murder in Kamloops

B.C. BUDGET: Income assistance raise still leaves many below poverty line

$50 per month increase included in funding for poverty and homelessness reduction

B.C. BUDGET: Indigenous communities promised billions from gambling

Extended family caregiver pay up 75 per cent to keep kids with relatives

B.C. BUDGET: New benefit increases family tax credits up to 96 per cent

BC Child Opportunity Benefit part of province’s efforts to reduce child poverty

B.C. BUDGET: Carbon tax boosts low-income credits, electric vehicle subsidies

Homeowners can get up to $14,000 for heating, insulation upgrades

B.C. man survives heart attack thanks to Facebook

A Princeton man suffered a heart attack while at an isolated property with no cell service

Abbotsford man sues Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party over trademark

Satinder Dhillon filed application for trademark same day Maxime Bernier announced the new party

New trial ordered over banning whales, dolphins at Vancouver aquarium

Park board’s appeal reverses previous decision that found it had no right to implement a ban

Most Read