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City of Abbotsford applies for grant for Vedder River flood-risk study

Assessment would be joint project with the City of Chilliwack
Gravel removal in the Vedder River was last done in the summer of 2016. If provincial funding is approved, a joint study between the cities of Abbotsford and Chilliwack will look at flood risk and mitigation planning, including sediment removal.

The City of Abbotsford has applied to receive up to $150,000 in provincial funding for a study that will look at flood risks associated with the Vedder River.

The Vedder River Flood Risk Assessment Study is a joint project with the City of Chilliwack.

Staff told Abbotsford council at a recent executive committee meeting that the study is a candidate for funding through the Community Emergency Preparedness Fund (CEPF) launched in 2017 by the Union of BC Municipalities.

One of the funding streams of the CEPF is flood risk assessment, flood mapping and flood mitigation planning.

“The intent of the funding stream is to support eligible applicants to ensure they have accurate knowledge of the flood hazards they face and to develop effective strategies to mitigate and prepare for those risks,” stated a staff report to council.

RELATED: The Fraser River doesn’t pose the only flood threat to Abbotsford

The Vedder River and canal system conveys water from Chilliwack Lake and its headwaters to the Fraser River.

The Vedder flows west and north from Chilliwack to join the Sumas River – downstream of Barrowtown Pump Station in Abbotsford – via the Vedder Canal, before its confluence with the Fraser River.

The system is approximately 12 kilometres long.

Flood control dikes are located along both sides of the Vedder River and canal.

Rob Isaac, general manager of engineering and regional utilities. told Abbotsford council that sand and sediment carried from the Chilliwack River basin upstream reduces the channel capacity and increases the flood threat to surrounding communities.

“Not removing the sediment could result in either flooding or requiring the raising of these dikes,” Isaac said.

The City of Abbotsford staff report indicates that Chilliwack began discussions with staff earlier this year about flood management of the river and canal.

The study would identify flood hazards such as sediment accumulation, erosion, dyke overtopping and seismic risk, as well as analyze and compare mitigation options and look at costs, the report states.

Isaac said Chilliwack will also apply for the grant to cover their portion of the study. Each of the city’s portion is expected to be within the CEPF funding limit of $150,000.

Applications were due by the end of February, with the funding announcement expected by the end of May. Successful applicants are then required to complete their projects within a year.

Gravel removal from the river was an issue in Chilliwack in 2018, when it was put on hold for two years, after it was determined that not enough sediment had accumulated to be a concern.

The issue was then contested in May 2020 by the Fraser River Salmon Society (FVSS), which wrote letters to provincial and federal authorities, saying there is no defensible flood-protection argument when balanced with the environmental damage it will cause. The FVSS said gravel removal would damage and destroy fish habitat.

By August, the applications to proceed with the gravel extraction were withdrawn by the Vedder River Management Area Committee.

– with files from Jennifer Feinberg, The Chilliwack Progress

RELATED: Potential for gravel removal this summer in Chilliwack has riled river stewards

RELATED: Vedder River gets reprieve from gravel removal this summer

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Vikki Hopes

About the Author: Vikki Hopes

I have been a journalist for almost 40 years, and have been at the Abbotsford News since 1991.
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