‘Works starts now’ that flood threat is over says Chilliwack councillor

Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz said receding high water is allowing everyone to breathe a sigh of relief.

The Fraser River peaked higher and later than usual causing flooding in Chilliwack’s unprotected areas for the second year in a row.

A resident-built berm was successful at keeping the flood waters at bay until it failed when the river rose significantly toward the end of June, according to a staff report at council Tuesday.

“It looks like the threat of flooding is over, but the work starts now,” Coun. Jason Lum told The Progress.

“It’s important that we not wait until next spring to start working on this with senior levels of government.”

It has to be a collaborative effort to get the necessary flood protection upgrades done right, he underlined.

“No one level of government has all the resources. Everybody has a role to play,” he said.

The highest of two peaks reached on the Lower Fraser River in the past two weeks amounted to a one-in-20-year event, according to city staffer Tara Friesen, assistant manager of environmental services, during her update to council Tuesday.

The first big pulse of rainwater and snowmelt pushed the Mission gauge needle to the 6.38 metres on June 23-24, dropped and rose again to 6.25 metres last week.

“Water levels were not sufficient to create serious flooding inside the dike system,” she reported. “Unfortunately, there was substantial flooding outside the dike, in the Carey Point area.”

Other locations saw seepage related impacts, and “seepage naturally occurs” when water levels come up to this extent.

Mayor Sharon Gaetz said the receding waters are allowing everyone to breathe a sigh of relief. She praised and thanked staff for superlative efforts during the high-water season, and said some neighbours had brought coffee and baking to hard-working crew members.

“So thanks goes out to the community for that. It shows we are a close community and we look after each other.”

After the staff report at the council meeting, Lum said council is working to lobby the province and other levels of government for “significant long-term planning” and funds to tackle river issues, he said.

Lum is the River Management Committee chair, as part of the Lower Mainland Local Government Association.

“We can’t just sit around waiting with our fingers crossed every year. People have had property damage and their livelihoods were impacted.

“It’s not just about dredging, diking or drainage. I think it’s going to take a combined effort to ensure people and property are not at risk when the river rises.”