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

EDITORIAL: Post-grad years are your time

Editor Grace Kennedy shares a few words for this year’s high school grads

PHOTOS: Sasquatch Days about ‘being proud of being Sts’ailes’

The joint event between Harrison and Sts’ailes returned to the village for its eighth year

‘This was my baby’: Music teacher to retire after 29 years at Kent Elementary

Brenda Di Rezze will be saying goodbye to her music room at the end of this school year

LETTER: Harrison needs trees, not a new parking lot

Harrison resident Janne Perrin reminds council that trees are important too

UPDATE: Two young Chilliwack men facing at least five years jail for armed robbery

Darius Commodore and Jaimal Mclaren face 13 charges in Mission/Agassiz incident involving police dog

VIDEO: Reading splashes into Agassiz’s Ferny Coombe Pool

The Agassiz Library held its annual Reading in the Pool event Friday, June 14

B.C. VIEWS: When farmland protection doesn’t protect farmers

Secondary residences aren’t mansions, families tell Lana Popham

Bombers down B.C. Lions 33-23 in season opener

Former Lion Andrew Harris leads Winnipeg with 148 rushing yards

Northern B.C. family remembers murdered Indigenous woman with memorial walk

Still no closure for Ramona Wilson’s family 25 years later

Pride flag taken down by Township of Langley

Woman said she was told it was removed from her front yard because of a complaint

B.C. university to offer mentorship program for former youth in care

Students using the provincial tuition waiver program will soon be able to form a community at KPU

Cyclists competing in one of the toughest bike races on the planet pass through Fernie

Divide riders looking strong as they finish first leg of 4160 km race

You might not know these B.C. records are public

Hired a lawyer to file a civil claim? Those are published online

B.C. bus driver loses case to get job back after texting while driving full bus

An arbitator ruled that Tim Wesman’s phone usage was a “a reckless disregard for public safety”

Most Read