Federal flood protection funding of $45 million from Infrastructure Canada was announced Wednesday to build six kilometres of new dikes to protect Skwah First Nation, Shxwhá:y Village, and City of Chilliwack property.
The two reserves on the north end of town are currently vulnerable to flooding, located outside Chilliwack’s protected diking system, but that will change with this major flood mitigation project, green-lighted under the 10-year, $2 billion Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund (DMAF).
“Our investment in this critical dike and flood barrier project along the Fraser River will help ensure residents and businesses in Chilliwack, Shxwhá:y Village and the Skwah First Nation are protected from the heavy personal and economic costs of extreme weather events,” said Infrastructure Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne.
In addition to the new dikes, a new flood gate will cross the Hope Slough and a new drainage pump station will be installed, to “significantly reduce the risk of flooding” as well as improving public safety and protecting homes and businesses from flood water damage.
Partners have been studying flood mitigation possibilities at a joint local table for more than three years.
Shxwhá:y Chief Robert Gladstone noted it was during “this time of reconciliation” that the partners have joined forces in a truly collaborative manner on the project, which “strengthens our bond with the City of Chilliwack and the federal government.”
“It is the dawn of a new day where First Nations and Canadian citizens are putting their minds together to find a solution to common problems that affect all of us on this little blue planet we call home,” said Chief Gladstone. “Climate change has affected our lands and it is up to us to protect it.”
Studies have shown extreme flooding of the Lower Mainland would utterly devastate Chilliwack and local Sto:lo communities.
Mayor Ken Popove emphasized the value of working cooperatively on this crucial file, and one of his election promises as mayor, was in improve communications with local First Nations. With more than 50 km of dikes around Chilliwack, the city has an ongoing program to upgrade them “to meet the newest standard” set by the Province of B.C. and will be contributing $7 million to the project.
“This new dike will be a key part of the upgrade program and protect important infrastructure, not only within the City of Chilliwack, but also within Shxwhá:y Village and the Skwah First Nation. By working together we are able to accomplish so much more than we would individually, while helping to positively contribute to the local economy,” said Popove.
Skwah Chief Robert Combes said he community is looking forward to the project forged in partnership.
“This has been a long time coming and by working together we can make all our communities safe and prosperous,” Chief Combes.
Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund (DMAF) is geared to helping communities face the prospect of increased natural disasters triggered by flood, seismic events, wildfires and drought.
“These events are growing in frequency as a result of climate change and pose serious threats to communities and infrastructure. Infrastructure failures from natural hazards can result in threats to health and safety, interruptions in essential services, significant disruptions in economic activity, and high costs for recovery and replacement,” reads a section from the Infrastructure Canada website.
A Fraser Basin Council study from 2016 showed a major Fraser River flood would result in total losses of $22.9 billion, and that could hit $32.7 billion by 2100.