Abbotsford city council approved a flood mitigation strategy for Sumas Prairie on June 13.
The preferred option is a hybrid of three of the four options presented to residents, farmers and business owners in April. Comments were accepted until May 15.
The feedback led councillors to choose a strategy that focuses on enhancing Abbotsford’s existing flood infrastructure while maximizing agricultural land and food security and minimizing the number of impacted properties, a city release says. This preferred option meets BC’s minimum flood protection guidelines.
Some residents are not so sure the hybrid concept will achieve its objectives.
“It sucks for us. We’re going to be in the middle of a swimming pool is what is going to happen,” says Cynthia Dykman of Dykman Cattle Co. “They want to put a dike at Angus Campbell [Road] and we’re the next road, which is Kenny. And then they want to put one on the east side of us. So basically, we are going to be their new floodway.”
The Dykman family managed to save nearly all their 800 dairy cows and 300 calves during the November floods, but they continue to grapple with challenges posed by the high flood waters six months later.
“We’re still having cows die from black leg, which is from the water. It’s an infection that gets into their blood through their feet.”
The Dykmans, along with Caroline Mostertman of Ripples Estate Winery, are the lead plaintiffs in a proposed class action lawsuit filed in December that seeks damages for personal loss and destruction as a result of the Sumas flood.
The mitigation strategy approved this week will be the basis for funding discussions with senior levels of government, though no price tag or specific project phases have been identified yet.
The four options presented to residents this spring ranged in cost from $209 million to upwards of $2.8 billion.
The hybrid option will require a multi-year phasing program. It will begin with the construction of a new Sumas River pump station. Other elements will include improving resilience at the Barrowtown Pump Station, replacing temporary infrastructure with permanent works along the Sumas Dike and working with jurisdictions on shaping the remaining components of the new plan, the city says.
A study the city commissioned in 2020 shows that in the event of a 200-year flood, the agricultural sector on Sumas Prairie would sustain $271 million worth of damages. The business and transportation impacts would be upwards of $14 million.
Total damages, including structure, content and agricultural damages and economic losses would be $836 million, the study said.