Fraser river bank protection could top $5 million
Steps to prevent further flooding in Chilliwack’s unprotected areas will cost anywhere from $1.3 million up to a little more than $5 million.
Some property owners in the Carey Point area, on the northern end of Chilliwack, suffered localized flooding when a berm outside the east dike failed during the 2011 Fraser River Spring Freshet.
Significant erosion has been a headache for Chilliwack officials for years, with a shifting scour hole eating away at rip rap all along the riverbank from Carey Point to Island 22.
Council received a report Tuesday from city staffer Terra Friesen containing a range of engineering solutions prepared by consultants Northwest Hydraulic Consultants.
NHC recommended the least expensive of three options for Chilliwack, at a cost of $1.3 million. The alignment offered the most longevity, cost efficiency, as well as an access road and a $75,000 “check dam” to protect Orchard slough, according to the report.
The most expensive solution,v at $5.1 million, would see an access road built, and bank protection with an estimated 7,000 truckloads of gravel. Added to that would be up to $150,000 in annual maintenance costs.
Options 1 and 2 however come with alignments set back from the river, which won’t include the more costly bank protection work stretching 300 feet into the river.
The flooded property owners of Chilliwack have stated they would like to see the city go with the $5.1 million option with full bank protection.
The armoured berm, called “an orphan dike” by some, was built close to the river with federal and provincial money in 1997, and never had any funding earmarked to maintain it, nor did it permit the city to gain access. But when it failed, it led to “overbank flood flows” which hit the unprotected floodplain, and impacted 15 local properties situated between the dike and the river.
Ballam Road resident John Van Den Brink lost his crop of 400 to 500 hazelnut trees when the berm failed.
“It’s been hard on us,” he told The Progress. “If it happens again, it will just wipe us out.”
A handful of the property owners are meeting with city officials on Thursday to urge them to look at another option: fixing the berm on an interim basis before next spring.
“We want them to put the gravel berm back the way it was, maybe just for the time being,” said Van Den Brink. “We walked the area last week, and we’ve never seen it this easy to rock.”
They are refusing to let it go.
“We can’t give up,” he said. “There are 370 acres back here with some of the best farmland we’ve got. It’s ludicrous that we don’t try and fix it, and down the road they will have to fix it sooner or later.”
City officials received word from Emergency Management BC that no provincial money would be made available to protect farmland outside a protected diked area.
In fact funding would only be supported if there was “an imminent threat” to the east dike from the 2011 Freshet, and there is an expectation that costs would be shared with the municipality.
This latest report from council will now be forwarded Emergency Management BC, said Friesen, asking for a formal response from the province, and to see if funding will be made available for any of the latest options, and which conditions would apply.
Council and government reps have been participating in discussions as part of a working group formed after the berm failure, including property owners and farmers impacted by the overland flooding last summer.
“They say they’re trying but nothing is happening,” Van Den Brink said. “We have another two and a half months before the river will start coming up again and nothing has been done.”