Flood Watch: Residents’ safety is the priority: city

City officials will “work hard” to assist residents living outside the dike, who may be affected by freshet flooding, pledged Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz.

City officials will “work hard” to assist residents living outside the dike, who may be affected by freshet flooding, pledged Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz.

This is even though the residents are technically responsible for flood and erosion protection themselves.

A total of 42 homes and eight industrial operations are located outside the city dike, as well as farms and First Nations.

City officials coordinated the filling of 8,000 sandbags to protect a residence on Ballam Road last week, and more were being filled at another home on Wednesday.

Several residents whose properties may be or were impacted, showed up at city hall Tuesday for the council meeting, sitting in the back rows to hear the city’s plan of action. At the end of the meeting, Mayor Gaetz addressed the residents’ request to meet in person with city officials.

“Everyone is working hard to make that happen,” she told them, as they filed out of council chambers at city hall.

Properties safely behind the city’s main dike are not at imminent risk for flooding in Chilliwack, but it all depends on the weather in the next while.

City officials to date have notified the Provincial Emergency Program (PEP), and are monitoring conditions daily. They will also be looking for sources of funding to pay for response and recovery efforts, despite the fact that the provincial response mandate favours protecting human life over land.

“The priority is to ensure the safety of those residents in the affected floodplain area,” Tara Friesen, assistant manager of environmental services for the city, said in an updated presentation.

A portion of McSween Road also slumped and had water flowing over it this week.

In response, the city had that portion of the road raised “to force the water back toward the river,” she said.

The Fraser River was measured at 5.5 metres at the Mission bridge, or “bank full” conditions  on Wednesday. That could mean more flooding in unprotected areas, and will prompt regular dike patrols.

The “isolated flooding” near Carey Point (Chilliwack Progress, June 9) was actually caused by ongoing erosion that’s very difficult to mitigate, said Friesen.

In fact, the berm that failed and caused the flooding was never under the protection afforded by the city’s diking system. An estimated $5 million is what it would cost the city to shore up the bank, and fill a 100-foot scour hole near the failed river bank.

Bank protection is therefore not seen as a “cost-effective” measure in this case, said Friesen, because of the risk of material slumping right back into the deep scour hole under the bank.

Options are therefore limited, and liability is a factor in the scenario where they would redirect the current of the river.

Coun. Ken Huttema said the staff presentation left some questions unanswered.

“It doesn’t give the residents on the other side of the dike a feeling of confidence,” he said. “There’s an awful lot of valuable farmland in the area, so what can we do as a city to get some provincial help? If we are going to leave a deep scour hole, it’s only going to get worse.”

Friesen suggested contacting agriculture ministry officials for assistance.

“I realize there’s very little that can be done right now, but I think we definitely have to have a long-term plan to address it,” Huttema added.

Gaetz pointed out that city officials have been “very busy” sandbagging, an activity that the property owners would typically be responsible for on their own.

A call for sandbagging volunteers went out this week and anyone interested should call 604-793-8713.

Weather conditions could ultimately be the determining factor in the peak river levels reached this month.

B.C. officials said they are not expecting any significant rise in the Fraser River – but the flood window hasn’t shut and “adverse weather” like a sharp spike in temperatures causing rapid melt of mountain snowpacks could change the picture.

“We don’t know what Mother Nature is going to give us for weather,” Emergency Management B.C. spokesman Chris Duffy said during a conference call with reporters Tuesday.

There’s still a number of days before the peak flows of the Fraser River during flood season are over, he said.

Dave Campbell, head of B.C.’s River Forecast Centre, said that “window” for the Fraser usually closes around the end of June and “this year we don’t anticipate much different.”

“At this point we’re not anticipating anything significant,” he said.

But both officials stressed the need to stay vigilant and keep an eye on the river.

“We don’t know yet how bad it could be,” he said, if there is a rapid melt or heavy rains in the Fraser watershed.”

–with files from Robert Freeman.

Just Posted

Jean-Pierre Antonio
Article chronicling haiku in Japanese internment camp near Hope wins award

Tashme Haiku Club’s work was preserved and recently translated, authors write

These three kittens, seen here on Thursday, June 10, 2021, are just some of many up for adoption at the Chilliwack SPCA. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Find Me My Furever Home – Three kittens at the Chilliwack SPCA

Kittens were in ‘rough shape’ when they came into the Chilliwack SPCA, now ready for adoption

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Chilliwack family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A new sign was installed at St. Thomas Anglican Church on Saturday, June 5, 2021 in Chilliwack. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Community effort to install new sign at Chilliwack’s oldest church

‘We feel it’s a step in the right direction to bring the church up-to-date,’ says St. Thomas parishioner

Dennis Saulnier rescued his daughters, two-year-old Brinley (left) and four-year-old Keegan, after their truck was driven off the road and into Cultus Lake on May 16, 2020. Reporter Jenna Hauck has been recognized by the B.C. and Yukon Community Newspapers Association for her story on the rescue. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)
Chilliwack Progress, Hope Standard staff take home 7 Ma Murray awards

Jenna Hauck, Eric Welsh, Jessica Peters, Emelie Peacock all earn journalism industry recognition

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

Most Read