A thousand acres of blueberries remain underwater in the Fraser Valley, while more than 200 farms in the province continue to operate under evacuation orders or alerts as another series of weather systems tracks across southwestern BC.
A statement from the BC Blueberry Council this week described the flooding as “an unprecedented event of great magnitude” for the sector, which Statistics Canada says farms 26,452 acres. This is more than five times what existed during the last major flood in 1990.
“There is a strong possibility that severely impacted growers will need to pull out their plants and replant them, which could be a large financial expense,” says Harry Sidhu, whose family farms in Sumas Prairie
However, the extent of the damage to blueberries and other crops is not known.
“This is still an active and evolving situation,” says the council’s statement says, emphasizing relief efforts over assessment. “Currently, the council is identifying severely impacted growers and finding ways to assist them.”
With close to 2 million sandbags are at the ready, authorities in Abbotsford are watching closely as water flows north from the Nooksack River, which once again overflowed its levees on Sunday night.
Preventative highway closures also continue to challenge supply chains, with the BC Milk marketing Board urging dairy producers to exercise patience.
“Some limited access through Highway 3 has opened a channel between the Interior and the Lower Mainland but has not yet solved all our transportation challenges,” the board reported November 30. “This access is a large detour and has heavy traffic and long delays. We expect we will see further disruption to this roadway in the coming days and weeks.”
Meanwhile, those farmers and ranchers that have been allowed back to their properties face a massive cleanup job. Some have also begun to file claims with insurance providers, with Co-operators Group and CapriCMW reporting last week that approximately 550 files have been opened as a result of wind and flood damage over the past two weeks.
But not all farms or property owners have coverage. According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, 95% of properties in BC are eligible for overland flood coverage, but just 50% of policies include it.
The province is offering disaster financial assistance to farmers without other forms of insurance. The program pays 80% of the amount of total eligible damage that exceeds $1,000, to a maximum claim of $300,000.
The province is also in discussions with the federal government regarding AgriRecovery funding to help farmers relaunch their operations.