With the rising water of the spring freshet covering sandbars and seeping into farmers’ fields, local municipalities are taking steps to improve their flood mitigation tactics.
The District of Kent is beginning the process of installing the Hammersley pump station upgrade – passing the recommendation at Monday night’s meeting to award the construction project to Industra for $2.6 million.
The new pumps will increase the pumping capacity of the station by three times – pumping water from the Mount Woodside slough through the dikes and into the Fraser River, helping to keep the farmland in the area dry in the event of high water levels or flooding.
Partially funded by a grant from Emergency Management BC, the upgraded pumps contribute to the district’s flood prevention measures, which include a large-scale dike system and storm drainage pumps in Harrison Mills and Kilby.
In the Village of Harrison, the flood prevention strategy is composed of a set of aqua dams, along with the Miami River dike pump station.
The pump station uses sensors and automatically begins pumping water from the Miami River’s drainage basin into Harrison Lake when the water level on one side of the dike is higher than the lake.
“It was recognized a long time ago that you need some kind of mechanism to get rid of this water that accumulated in the Miami River during periods when the lake was in high-level conditions such as the spring freshet,” explained village Coun. John Hansen.
“That flood of  revealed a whole lot of issues. One of the biggest things done since then is the amount of dikes constructed, the quality of the dikes, the height of the dike … The levels that occurred in ’48, should they occur now, I don’t think we would have much of a problem. But there’s a whole bunch of factors to consider.”
The village had new flood pumps installed in 2016, replacing an over 60-year-old pump with a low water capacity, obscure parts and a high fish mortality rate. The new system cost $1.9 million, but was funded on a municipal, provincial and federal level.
Before the new pump was installed, additional pumps were often brought in to prevent flooding, Hansen said.
“In past years there have been instances where they have had to … bring additional pumps in at a considerable expense, because it didn’t have the capacity to pump what was required.”
But now, using pumps with a 200-year flood-level capacity, the councillor feels confident about the village’s plan for flood prevention, although he said none of the village’s efforts could keep up with a major dike failure on the Fraser River if it caused flooding through Agassiz and into the village.
“After a major dike breach, the breach would be prepared, but what you’re left with is a lot of water in the community,” he said. “That’s where the pumps would take that water and pump it out of the community and get [the water] down to the proper levels.”
Hansen said gravel removal from the rivers may be one of the only ways to fully prevent future flooding, but, for now, the flood prevention systems in place in the village help him sleep at night, even when local waterways reach unusually high heights like they have this spring.