Abbotsford city staff presented four options to city council on April 4 aimed at mitigating damage from flooding similar to what followed last November’s atmospheric rivers.
City staff, alongside consulting engineers Kerr Wood Leidal, developed the options for long-term flood risk reduction and mitigation on Sumas Prairie. Two largely maintain the status quo, with minor improvements to the Barrowtown pump station and a new Sumas River pump station.
Option 3 relocates the Sumas River dike north of Hwy 1 and adds a new floodway as well as additional storage capacity in addition to upgrading the Barrowntown pump station and a new Sumas River pump station.
Option 4 would create a new floodway and add three new pump stations as well as upgrade the Barrowtown pump station. The most expensive option, it would have the least impact on property owners.
Options 3 and 4 meet the flood protection guidelines in BC and can withstand a 1-in-200-year event. The four options range in cost from $209 million to $2.8 billion.
“There will be robust discussions with farmers,” says Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun, noting that some options may impact farms, businesses and residences.
The city has launched a consultation that welcomes feedback from residents, businesses, First Nations and neighbouring governments over the next six to eight weeks.
Once the consultation period wraps up, the city will identify the preferred flood mitigation option and complete a long-term flood mitigation plan. Funding discussions will then commence with senior levels of government.
“If we do nothing, we’re going to have this happen again,” says Braun. “I have kept the ministers provincially and federally in the loop. … They have a rough idea of what the ballpark dollar value is. That won’t come as a shock to them, but they haven’t guaranteed funding yet.”
The amount of funding Abbotsford seeks will depend on which of the four options council selects.
“Options one and two do not meet provincial standards for dikes,” he says. “The only way one of those two options will be chosen is if the federal and provincial governments say they don’t have money for us.”
But the city doesn’t have the money, either. Speaking at the Mainland Milk Producers annual general meeting earlier this year, Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon MP Brad Vis said existing formulas for calculating disaster assistance were never intended for disasters of the scale Abbotsford saw last fall.
“The 80-20 formula – the 20% that small towns are supposed to recover in times of disaster – probably isn’t going to work, even for Abbotsford, this time around,” he said. “For Abbotsford to cover 20% of total cost of damage is beyond the scope of even a mid-sized municipality.”
Braun is well aware of the fact, and has been written both the premier and prime minister regarding the city’s requirements, both in terms of financing and infrastructure.
“We don’t have this kind of money as a city through property taxes,” he says. “We need their help.”