It may not be everything that some Chilliwack farmers had been hoping for, but it’s the best City of Chilliwack can do right now, according to one city councillor.
Council unanimously voted to spend $110,000 at the Tuesday meeting, in part to build an engineered dam to hold any flooding at bay this spring at Carey Point.
That’s in addition to the $25,000 recently secured by Chilliwack MLA John Les for the flood protection effort from Emergency Management B.C.
Mayor Sharon Gaetz thanked the local MLA “for going to bat” for Chilliwack and managing to get EMBC to squeeze out those funds at the last minute.
The $110,000 from city coffers will cover $85,000 for an engineered “check dam” to be built on Orchard Slough, and the balance as a contribution to the non-engineered berm that will be built by property owners with farms and homes located outside the city diking system.
The total cost of an engineered solution for the check dam and berm would have been about $235,000, according to the staff report.
“It’s probably not what the residents were hoping for,” said Coun. Ken Huttema when he proposed the second of three options staff gave. “Given what happened, they would have hoped the city and province could have stepped up and paid for the whole works.
“But it’s the best the city can come forward with right now.”
Coun. Sue Attrill said everything that could be done to “move it along quickly” at this point would help since the freshet high water is coming, and locals are concerned.
Coun. Chuck Stam argued it was a good investment, and time for the city to “put our money where our mouth is” when it comes to supporting the agriculture.
“Without this kind of investment in our area now we could see a significant loss of productivity. This is a good investment.”
About 18 property owners living on more than 350 agricultural acres outside the Chilliwack dikes suffered crop losses, flooding and seepage, after the berm failed during a prolonged high-water session last summer.
“I think there needs to be some acknowledgement by residents that they live outside our dike protection,” Mayor Gaetz said. “The province doesn’t and certainly the city doesn’t have the funds” to pay for building flood protection infrastructure.
She recommended that farmers seek out crops that can withstand flooding on a yearly basis.
“Council had to wrestle with a hard decision on this one,” she said. “But it’s one that benefits the residents of Carey Point, and it also protects farmland. Good luck to the residents.”
The orphaned berm was originally built in an emergency flooding situation more than 15 years ago, but it has never been maintained by any level of government in the years since.