Senate report calls for comprehensive Fraser Valley flood plan

Click to play video: 'Senators call for action on Fraser Valley flood protections'
Senators call for action on Fraser Valley flood protections
WATCH: As the one-year anniversary approaches of the 2021 devastating floods in B.C.'s Fraser Valley, a federal Senate committee is calling for a comprehensive plan to avoid a repeat. – Oct 28, 2022

Nearly a year after devastating floods inundated British Columbia’s Fraser Valley, a federal Senate committee has recommended the creation of a comprehensive flood plan for the region.

Flood waters that rushed north from Washington state due to a series of atmospheric rivers last November inundated 15,000 hectares of land, affecting about 1,000 farms and 2.5 million livestock.

Read more: Abbotsford council greenlights massive new flood mitigation plan

The total cost of last November’s floods is still being calculated, but has been estimated at more than a quarter-billion dollars.

Now, the Senate committee on agriculture has issued a trio of core recommendations aimed at preventing a similar future disaster.

First, the committee is calling on all levels of government to work together on a comprehensive flood plan for the entire Fraser Valley, which would be “critical” to protecting the productive agricultural region.

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Click to play video: 'Abbotsford backs billion-dollar flood prevention plan'
Abbotsford backs billion-dollar flood prevention plan

“Floods like those in southwest British Columbia in November 2021 will inevitably happen again and the damage they cause could be much worse,” Sen. Robert Black, chairman of the committee, said in a news release.

“To protect Fraser Valley residents, farmers and their livelihoods, the federal government must invest in and help the B.C. government update the province’s outdated flood mitigation infrastructure.”

The committee further recommended that officials develop a method of more quickly getting disaster relief funds to affected farmers.

Read more: ‘It’s gonna take time’: Abbotsford, B.C. farmer faces long post-flood recovery

And it recommended that the Canadian government collaborate with U.S. officials on a long-term plan to address concerns about flooding from the Nooksack River in Washington state.

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It was that river which overtopped its banks during the flood disaster, sending water across the low-lying Fraser Valley flood plain an into the Sumas Prairie.

Click to play video: 'Flood relief funding for Abbotsford farmers'
Flood relief funding for Abbotsford farmers

Outgoing Abbotsford mayor Henry Braun, who was widely lauded for his steady hand during the last year’s floods, hailed the report as a good step forward.

“I agree with the recommendations that are in there. I think from reading the report they understand what the issues are,” he said.

“They are the same issues that were there 30 years ago, we just haven’t done anything, and I’m hoping with the standing committee’s voice (added) to all the other voices including my own, we’re actually going to turn this into some action.”

The committee said the Fraser Valley flood plan should include a timeline for dike upgrades and calls for the creation of a federal-provincial committee to examine flood mitigation measures, emergency preparedness and response strategies with stakeholders, including Indigenous communities.

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Read more: B.C. floods: New video shows Abbotsford dairy farm under 8 feet of water

Abbotsford council set out its own preferred flood mitigation plan in June, a more than $2-billion proposal that includes a new pump station on the Sumas River along with the construction and improvement of numerous dikes.

Braun said he wanted to see quicker action, including a provincial green light and federal funding for a new Sumas River pump station, which he said should be prioritized ahead of the rest of the plan.

“We don’t need more committees and studies on a pump station,” he said. “We’ve already done all that work and presented it to the province. We now need to make a decision.”

Additionally, he called for the return of a Canadian Forces presence to the Fraser Valley, something missing since CFB Chilliwack was shuttered.

The Matsqui Institution, a federal prison located near both Highway 1 and the Abbotsford Airport, is nearing the end of its projected lifespan, he said, and Ottawa could look at relocating it and setting up a military installation on the property.

“The fact that the military wasn’t here already demonstrates how badly we needed it because of response times, and that wasn’t their fault. They couldn’t get here. Everything was cut off,” Braun said.


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