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B.C. floods: Abbotsford stems flow of water to Sumas Prairie, dike repairs continue

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The City of Abbotsford has stopped the flow of flood water into the Sumas Prairie as repairs to multiple breaches of the dike protecting the lowlands continue. Grace Ke has the latest – Nov 21, 2021

The City of Abbotsford has stopped the flow of flood water into the Sumas Prairie, but repairs to multiple breaches of the dike protecting the lowlands continue.

At a Sunday briefing, Mayor Henry Braun said water levels in the Fraser River had dropped sufficiently for staff to fully open the floodgates at the critical Barrowtown pump station, diverting water from the swollen Sumas River away from the badly flooded Sumas Prairie.

Major repairs to damaged dikes had also hit a critical milestone, he said.
Click to play video: 'B.C. floods: Abbotsford partially opens floodgates to release water' B.C. floods: Abbotsford partially opens floodgates to release water
B.C. floods: Abbotsford partially opens floodgates to release water – Nov 20, 2021

“The dike repair work has now reached a point where the water form the Sumas River is now longer flowing into the Sumas Prairie lake bottom, although there is much more work that needs to be completed to reinforce the dike,” Braun said.

With the dike closed, flood water levels in the hard-hit eastern part of the Sumas Prairie had dropped by nearly eight centimetres Braun said.

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Water from the flooded Nooksack River in the Washington state, a key source of the problem, had also ceased flowing across the border into the Sumas River, he added.

Read more: B.C. floods: ‘Dramatic change’ in Abbotsford as city opens floodgates, dike repairs progress

Engineers and contractors, supported by the Canadian Armed Forces, have been racing to repair broken dikes surrounding the key agricultural area ahead of more rain forecast for this week.

That work had shifted to building the dike up by an additional three metres and repairing weak points, Braun said.

At least 119 Canadian soldiers have been deployed to Abbotsford, and a Royal Canadian Air Force CC-177 Globemaster arrived at Abbotsford Airport Saturday afternoon, delivering three CH-146 Griffon helicopters from 430 Tactical Helicopter Squadron to assist with flood rescue efforts.

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B.C. floods: Border communities’ residents bringing essential goods from U.S. to be exempt from PCR test requirement – Nov 21, 2021

Troops continue to support the dike repair efforts, and would begin helping clear culverts and debris from the prairie in the coming days, Braun said.

Braun toured the Barrowtown pump station Sunday, which he said continued to work at full capacity, to assess water levels and get an update from staff.

“I have a whole new appreciation for just how close we came to this disaster being much, much worse,” Braun said.

“We came extremely close to losing this absolutely critical piece of infrastructure. I cannot thank the staff at Barrowtown enough for their efforts as well as the residents and volunteers who came out to sandbag last week.”

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The city also shared a new image of damage to Highway 1, Sunday, illustrating the scale of repairs needed to the primary route through the Fraser Valley.

The freeway remains closed in both directions between McCallum Road and Yale Road, with no estimated time to reopen. Drivers are being diverted to Downes Road.

As of Sunday, engineers had assessed all accessible bridges in the flood zone, and geotechnical specialists had inspected about 70 kilometres of road and more than 150 culverts.

Read more: B.C. floods: Abbotsford drops controversial levee plan, will repair dike breaches instead

However, it would still be some time before waters receded enough to rescind a boil water advisory or open roads. The city has also extended a state of local emergency until Nov. 29.

“We are still a long way from being out of danger,” Braun said, noting staff were working with Environment Canada on updated projections for the next weather system to arrive in the region.

The remnants of another atmospheric river that arrived on B.C.’s North Coast Sunday were projected to bring more rain to the South Coast by mid-week, according to Environment Canada.

“If 100 millimetres come in 24 hours that’s a problem, a big problem, because the water is going to come back across the border,” Braun said.

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Earlier Sunday, the City of Chilliwack lifted an evacuation alert for the Yarrow and Majuba Hill areas, which are adjacent to the Sumas Prairie, citing progress on the work in Abbotsford.

Evacuation orders remained in place for nine Chilliwack properties.

 

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