2007 flooding of Fraser River near Chilliwack.

2007 flooding of Fraser River near Chilliwack.

Regional push forms on Fraser flood control

Coalition led by Fraser Basin Council pledges coordinated strategy to avert flood disaster

A broad coalition of local and senior governments and other interests have joined forces to craft a coordinated strategy to safeguard the Lower Mainland from a catastrophic flood.

The Lower Mainland Flood Management Strategy aims to pull together an action plan with costs within two years to begin the process of raising dikes and improving other flood defences in the years ahead.

It’s unclear how the billions of dollars in needed work will be raised but advocates hope a regional approach will prove more logical than leaving individual municipalities to work in isolation on flood planning and lobbying for grants.

The initiative led by the Fraser Basin Council was announced Tuesday and will focus on the risk of Fraser River flooding and coastal flooding from winter storm surges, which are expected to be amplified by a rising sea level.

RELATED STORIESValley dikes too low to withstand major Fraser River floodFraser River risks threaten economy: report

Technical work is to begin later this year to better identify areas of the region that are most vulnerable to flooding.

Fraser Basin Council chair Colin Hansen said a priorized strategy of what flood defence works are needed most urgently would guide spending.

A blueprint for deliberate, planned upgrades would aim to avoid a repeat of 2007, when the Fraser threatened to flood and politicians frantically dispatched hundreds of dump trucks to raise dikes as an emergency action.

“We did not know whether we were putting those dump truck loads in the most important places or not,” Hansen said.

“We threw money at the problem on an urgent basis. We need to make sure taxpayers’ dollars are spent effectively, targeting the highest risk areas first and dealing with the secondary concerns as we go forward.”

Part of the case for a regionally agreed strategy is because flood water pushed back in one area will flow to another.

Just building higher dikes in the Fraser Valley could simply direct more water at Richmond, Hansen said.

Dikes are sometimes maintained by different municipalities on either side of a river – such as the Pitt River between Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam. If just one side is built higher to new standards, the other side would flood first in high water.

“Everything that is done has consequences somewhere else,” Hansen said. “That’s why this has to be an integrated plan.”

Federal and provincial ministers pledged support, noting a Fraser flood has the potential to be the worst natural disaster in Canadian history, with 300,000 residents and $50 billion in development at risk on the river’s floodplain.

Also backing the plan was Sto:lo Grand Chief Doug Kelly, who said aboriginal communities’ pleas for help during floods in 1989 and 1990 were mired in “jurisdictional warfare” between the provincial and federal governments.

Adding to the sense of urgency are new reports released by the province last week that project 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.

“It makes this much more real,” said Fraser Basin Council executive director David Marshall.

He said a major flood could cut off the rest of Canada from Asia-Pacific trade and sterilize the fertile farmland soil of the Fraser delta with salt water.

“Like New Orleans, it could take years or even decades to fully recover,” Marshall said. “It’s always been in the past that someone else will look after it. Well, those days are done.”

Hansen noted nobody knows how much time the region has to bolster its defences.

He pointed to a flood like the devastating one of 1894, thought to have been a one-in-200-year flood that new studies now project may come once every 50 years.

“We don’t know whether that’s next year or 49 years from now.”

Some Fraser Valley politicians fear the strategy may focus too heavily on raising dikes and not enough on the use of dredging of the Fraser to deal with the steady deposition of gravel that creates less room for water in the channel over time.

“Dredging seems to be a dirty word as far as the Fraser Basin Council is concerned,” said District of Kent Coun. Lorne Fisher.

Flooding of the Fraser River near Chilliwack in 2007. Black Press file photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Posted

(Adam Louis/Observer)
PHOTOS: Students leap into action in track events at Kent Elementary

At Kent Elementary, when the sun’s outside, the fun’s outside. The intermediate… Continue reading

Kindergarten kids from Evans elementary school in Chilliwack painted rocks with orange hearts and delivered them to Sto:lo Elders Lodge recently after learning about residential schools. (Laura Bridge photo)
Kindergarten class paints rocks with orange hearts in Chilliwack for local elders

‘Compassion and empathy’ being shown by kids learning about residential schools

Chilliwack potter Cathy Terepocki (left) and Indigenous enhancement teachers Val Tosoff (striped top) and Christine Seymour (fuchsia coat), along with students at Vedder middle school, look at some of the 500-plus pinch pots on Thursday, June 10 made by the kids to honour the 215 children found at Kamloops Indian Residential School. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack students make hundreds of tiny clay pots in honour of 215 Indigenous children

‘I think the healing process has begun,’ says teacher about Vedder middle school project

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay
Webinar looks at sexual abuse prevention among adolescents

Vancouver/Fraser Valley CoSA hosts free online session on June 15

One person was transported to hospital with minor injuries following a two-vehicle crash on Hot Springs Road June 10. (Adam Louis/Observer)
One hurt following two-vehicle crash on Hot Springs Road

Agassiz Fire Department, B.C. Ambulance Service attended with RCMP

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

Most Read