Abbotsford council has approved in principle a long-term flood-mitigation plan that combines three of the four options previously proposed.
The first phase of the multi-year hybrid plan, presented Monday (June 13) and voted on at the executive council meeting, includes constructing a new Sumas River Pump Station, improving resiliency at the Barrowtown Pump Station, and replacing temporary works with permanent works along the Sumas dike.
The first phase also includes continuing to work with other jurisdictions on fine-tuning the remaining components of the new plan.
Council also supported recommendations to prepare a funding submission to the provincial government. Cost estimates have not yet been prepared.
A city press release issued Monday afternoon states that the hybrid concept – combining concepts originally identified in April in options two, three and four – improves the city’s existing flood protection system “while maximizing agricultural land and food security, and minimizing the number of impacted properties.”
The preferred option meets minimum flood protection guidelines in B.C., the release states.
Four options were presented in early April to prepare the city for the next major flooding event. Costs ranged from $100 million to $2.3 billion for Sumas Prairie flood protection.
But factoring in enhancements for the Matsqui dike, upgrades to Clayburn Village and improvements in water-source resiliency put the total range of options from $209 million to $2.8 billion.
The city then sought feedback from Abbotsford residents, farmers and business owners, as well as further technical analysis and input from Sumas First Nation.
The city says the new Sumas River Pump Station will address the impacts of being unable to open the floodgates, which is what occurred last November and happens during the spring freshet (snowmelt).
Speaking at Monday’s council meeting, Rob Isaac – general manager of engineering and regional utilities – said the existing floodgates at Barrowtown are the city’s “Achilles’ heel that (the city) must address with the addition of the Sumas River Pump Station.”
Stella Chiu, acting director of utilities infrastructure, said that during last November’s flood, not only was there overflow from the Nooksack River in Washington State, but there were high water levels from the Fraser and Vedder rivers. This created a “bottleneck” in the system that resulted in the floodgates having to be closed for four and a half days.
She said the new pump station will take away that blockage and allow for the continuous conveyance of the Sumas River so that the water does not back up and overflow into the Sumas Lake area.
Chiu and Isaac indicated that work to the Matsqui Dike – which offers protection from Fraser River flooding – is part of the flood-mitigation package. Chiu said a major Fraser River flood would cause even more damage than what occurred in November.
Mayor Henry Braun said he hopes that at least the design work on the new pump station will begin soon “because that work in itself is going to take a number of years.”
“We’re going to have to get through a couple of more Novembers before we are actually in a position where we’re much better protected than we were prior to November (2021),” he said.
But Braun said he wants to reassure residents that Sumas Prairie is in a better position now than it was last fall.
“We raised the dikes a half a metre from where they were on the Sumas Dike for six or seven kilometres so we have more storage capacity when the floodgates are closed at Barrowtown,” he said.
The next steps in the process include creating a more detailed plan on the scope of the work, including where infrastructure will be built, as well as ongoing talks with First Nations, residents, businesses and stakeholders.