A new video released online by City of Chilliwack explains the critical role the local diking system plays in protecting the community from catastrophic flooding.
“Creating a video like this was seen as the most concise and effective way to get our message across,” said acting mayor Sam Waddington.
Over four and half minutes long, the video was uploaded from city hall Friday at the www.chilliwack.com site, and is found on the flood information page.
The video is not geared to countering any arguments in particular — such as those held by some residents opposing the Young Road dike upgrade as a group, he said.
The impetus of the new video is to clarify the intent of the dike project, and put it in context to in the face of some inaccurate details being shared in discussions, the city councillor said.
“We understand it’s the right of residents to disagree with us, but we are compelled to clarify some of the facts around this project to avoid the any misunderstandings.”
The video offers visually stunning aerial views of the Fraser River along with eisting and future diking infrastructure shot by drones. There is some historical context provided, with archival flood photos, and river graphs added to the mix.
It’s important that people see the dike upgrade in the context of adding protection to the larger system, and especially in the context of historical disasters such as the floods of 1894 and 1948.
“We know what this river can do,” Waddington said. “The river is volatile, and that makes us vulnerable. We need to do everything we can to reduce that vulnerability.”
Completing the Young Road upgrade will “in itself” protect more Chilliwack homes and property than the system did in the past, he stated, but it also has to be seen in a continuum of dike upgrading, and as the next step in the ongoing flood prevention work.
Prep work for the dike elevation started last week, despite the opposition and threats of legal action, with heavy equipment removing roadside trees and brush.
Acting Mayor Waddington said extending the dike down Cartmell Road, as suggested as an alternative, will not be considered.
“The other aspect we needed to clarify is how long it really takes to do the leg work for a project of this magnitude, and to do it well,” Waddington said.
Some Young Road property owners have called for alternative dike alignments to be chosen, such as one that would go along Cartmell, rather than down Young Road.
“But if we were to realign the dike, it would mean years of planning,” he noted. “We just don’t have that.”
Some of the opposition against the Young Road dike project have a vested interest in the outcome, he suggested, such as concerns about sloping driveways and property values.
“I’m afraid that some are putting their personal interests ahead of the greater good in this case.
“That is not an assault on their point of view, it’s just how we have to see it. It was not an easy decision to make, but it was a necessary one.”
The video shows the specific areas protected within the floodplain, highlights the diking system that protects the city from Fraser flooding, and identifies the process of upgrading current diking infrastructure in order to meet provincial standards.
City council voted 4-2 last month to approve the Young Road dike upgrade, with councillors Ken Popove and Chris Kloot voting against. City officials have pledged to find ways to “minimize” the impacts on residents.
The cost of the Young Road dike project is $2.3 million, with provincial and federal reps sharing it three ways with the city’s share at about $700,000.
The alternative for council was cancelling the project, which would have meant forfeiting Emergency Management BC funding, and the $150,000 for emergency upgrading materials, said staff in the report to council in February.
One of the most vocal residents in opposing the dike elevation on Young Road is Dave Hallett, brother of Mayor Sharon Gaetz. Because of that active opposition to the city’s project, Mayor Gaetz has stepped out of discussions and decision-making around this issue, to avoid any potential conflict of interest, and acting mayor Sam Waddington has been speaking to it.
Hallett said his view is that the Young Road section will not offer any flood protection until the dike upgrading continues to Chilliwack Mountain.
“It does nothing to protect any of the rest of Chilliwack until the dike continues all the way to Wolfe Road,” he argued.
He’d rather see the local Sto:lo communities protected with alternate alignments, and is concerned about the existing garbage dump on First Nations land near the river.
“I hate for us to sound like bunch of crybabies,” he said referring to the Young Road residents who are actively opposing the project. “I’m not the least bit concerned about my property values. I’m more concerned with those properties sloping downward.”
The way his house was constructed, he’s not personally worried about a steep sloping driveway, but some of the other residents have that concern.
“There are some homes on young that will be drastically affected.”