David Blain

David Blain

$2.3 million in dike upgrades coming to Chilliwack

Upgrades to the city's east dike will increase flood protection for more than 40,000 people living in the floodplain.

It’s a Christmas gift that will keep on giving.

A $2.3-million upgrade to Chilliwack’s east dike funded by federal, provincial and municipal governments that will increase flood protection for more than 40,000 was announced Tuesday.

But it wouldn’t have happened without the hard work of Chilliwack MLA John Les and Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon MP Mark Strahl and the $780,000 that the city had in reserve, said Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz.

Each level of government contributed $780,000 to the project, but it wouldn’t have happened if the city did not first have those matching funds in reserve, she said.

The upgrade will see the east dike that runs under Young Road raised by a maximum of one metre from Cartmell Road (the wing dike that extends into the Fraser River) to the Hope River. Bike lanes will also be added to that section of Young Road.

David Blain, city engineer, said the east dike was a priority for upgrading since the design flood profile changed about five years ago.

He said the next priority for upgrading is the Town Dike, which runs from Young Road toward Wolfe Road, then along Schweyey Road to Chilliwack Mountain, protecting sections of the city and areas of Greendale.

Les, a former Chilliwack mayor, said the upgrades announced Tuesday will be a “significant improvement to Chilliwack’s diking infrastructure.”

He said the city narrowly missed a “catastrophic” flood in 2007 “just because a weather pattern behaved a little differently than predicted.”

“The bottom of the river continues to rise,” he added, as gravel continues to be deposited by the Fraser and “failure of the dike would be catastrophic beyond belief.”

Gaetz agreed.

“It’s absolutely imperative we have this next piece in our infrastructure to avoid a catastrophic event,” she said.

Total costs of a major flood in Chilliwack have been estimated at over $1 billion.

Gaetz said the upgrades will add protection for downtown Chilliwack, as well as many rural areas.

She credited both Strahl and Les for their hard work ensuring Chilliwack got the funding, part of a joint federal-provincial program.

“I know the people of Chilliwack are very grateful,” she said.

Construction of the upgrades is expected to start in 2014.