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‘This remains the most pressing conversation’: Abbotsford, B.C. mayor on funding for dike repairs

Click to play video: 'B.C. floods: Recovery and repair work progressing' B.C. floods: Recovery and repair work progressing
The City of Abbotsford is extending the local state of emergency, as floodwaters remain high in parts of Sumas Prairie, while the B.C. government warns the closure of major highway routes is going to impact many holiday plans. John Hua reports – Dec 6, 2021

The flood-ravaged city of Abbotsford, B.C., has extended its local state of emergency by another week and lifted another evacuation order for part of the Sumas Prairie.

Repairs and cleanup continue, Mayor Henry Braun said Monday, but residents of the Sumas Prairie central zone can now return home.

“Access in and out must be done by Cole Road,” he said, citing safety concerns. “We are asking you, ‘Do not try to take alternate routes or remove barriers.'”

As of Dec. 6, 2021, the City of Abbotsford, B.C. has lifted evacuation orders for Sumas Prairie North (in blue) and Sumas Prairie Central (in green).
As of Dec. 6, 2021, the City of Abbotsford, B.C. has lifted evacuation orders for Sumas Prairie North (in blue) and Sumas Prairie Central (in green). City of Abbotsford

Water levels in the southern Sumas Prairie have dropped nearly six feet since last week, but some infrastructure is still submerged.

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Many fields still have between four and five feet of standing water, Braun added, as the roads are higher than the surrounding farmlands.

“No one knows what may be just underneath the floodwaters,” he said.

“Even once we are able to clear the water from this area, there will be lots of work that needs to be done before we can rebuild.”

Read more: ‘The scale of the flood damage is extraordinary’: B.C. crews continue cleanup

Abbotsford is one of several southern B.C. communities drenched by four atmospheric rivers in November.

A dusting of snow also covered the city over the weekend, but Braun said the colder temperatures have been a help, not a hindrance.

“The lower freezing levels reduced the amount of snowmelt that gets added into our system. I’m not sure I’ve said this before, but the snowmelt from Mount Baker was a big contributor to the flooding of the Nooksack River during previous weather events.”

Click to play video: 'B.C. is shifting to flood management and recovery work: public safety minister' B.C. is shifting to flood management and recovery work: public safety minister
B.C. is shifting to flood management and recovery work: public safety minister – Dec 6, 2021

Damage assessments continue on houses, buildings, bridges, gazebos and other structures. The city is undertaking that work with help from Canada Task Force 1, an elite urban search and rescue team.

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Meanwhile, the mayor said he’s focused on advocating for funding from B.C. and Ottawa to bring the city’s dikes up to today’s standards.

“I’m not sure that we will have another 100 years before we face another weather event that is similar or worse, and we are not prepared for that today,” he explained.

“As mayor, this remains the most pressing conversation that I feel needs to take place with senior levels of government in the weeks to come.”

Click to play video: 'Abbotsford mayor reveals his ‘most pressing conversation’ about B.C. floods' Abbotsford mayor reveals his ‘most pressing conversation’ about B.C. floods
Abbotsford mayor reveals his ‘most pressing conversation’ about B.C. floods – Dec 6, 2021

Read more: B.C.’s South Coast, Vancouver Island wake up to snow following a few days of dry weather

The Sumas Prairie central zone remains under evacuation alert, as does the north zone, whose evacuated order was lifted Friday.

All returning Sumas Prairie residents must observe a “do not use” water advisory because of “continued uncontrollable” water main breaches.

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The B.C. government has also said liquid manure may have contaminated private well water in the Fraser Valley.

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