The District of Kent’s new pump station in the Hammersley Prairie has finally had its grand opening, even though it’s been operational since May of this year.
At the Hammersley Pump Station on Friday, Dec. 6, Kent mayor Sylvia Pranger welcomed dignitaries and residents to the unveiling of the long-awaited drainage system.
“As a rural community, we don’t have a tax base to fund projects of this capacity by ourselves,” she said. “So we are very grateful when we are awarded the necessary funding to complete projects like this.”
The Hammersley Pump Station has been long in the making, with the $4.17 million in grant money from the provincial government announced back in 2017. Construction began in the summer of 2018, and the pump was finished and operating in time for the 2019 freshet.
The pump station protects 160 farms, about 200 residential properties and two federal correctional facilities; it’s the sole drainage option for the Mountain Slough.
The new pump station is able to move more than twice as much water as the old one, which had been in place for about 50 years. Instead of a centrifugal pump, which councillor Duane Post described as a “meat grinder,” the new screw pumps are able to move both water and fish safely through the station, while maintaining water levels between 10.5 and 10.8 metres above sea level.
“This is a great breeding ground for endangered species: the Oregon spotted frog, the Oregon forest snail, the Salish sucker,” Chilliwack-Kent MLA Laurie Throness said about Hammersley Prairie. “This pump, as we have learned, is easier on fish and so it’s going to help preserve endangered species and maybe ease the conflict a little bit that exists here on ground zero.”
Drainage and environmental protection have long been contentious topics in the District of Kent, as federal and provincial legislation around endangered species can sometimes alter or delay ditching efforts by the district.
“The District of Kent was incorporated … for the reason of being able to borrow money so they could get drainage work done,” Post said. “It’s been something that we’ve always been working on for 125 years, and more than likely well into the future.”
Although the pump station had a budget of $4.17 million through the provincial grant, the project actually came in $600,000 under budget. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth announced at the pump opening that the leftover funds would stay in the District of Kent for drainage.
“That’s going to help drainage and fish habitat as well,” Farnworth said.
The pump station “adds significant capacity in its ability to move water and provide flood protection,” he said. “This is just one piece in a larger puzzle.”