Flooded Chilliwack farmer worried about spring freshet

The time has come to fix a berm on the river that gave way last spring, causing flooding and crop losses, says one Chilliwack farmer.

The time has come to fix a berm that gave way in Chilliwack last spring, causing localized flooding and crop losses, according to one Chilliwack farmer.

Hazelnut tree farmer John Van Den Brink said he’s even more anxious than ever to get it repaired to save properties like his, which are not protected by the city’s diking system, from the upcoming spring freshet.

“In the 30 years I’ve lived here, this is the first year it could be rocked,” said Van Den Brink.

At issue is an orphaned berm built in a emergency flooding situation more than 15 years ago near Carey Point.

It has never been maintained or claimed by any level of government in the years since it was first rip-rapped to keep the river at bay.

When the berm failed during an unusually prolonged high-water episode last summer, about 15 Chilliwack properties suffered flooding and seepage from the river.

The city’s position has been that the affected property owners would have cover any flood or erosion costs themselves, although they did facilitate the sand-bagging of some affected homes during the high-water alert.

But now more than a dozen affected property owners are heading to a meeting with city officials on Wednesday night to discuss preparations for this year’s spring freshet.

There’s actually some “nice gravel” visible now at the site for at least 25 feet down the bank, the farmer said.

“Fifteen years ago there was a scour hole here and there was no way you could rock it.”

Now is the time to do something, he said.

About a quarter of those remaining on his property are still super-stressed, and might have to be ripped out.

“Our trees took a real beating,” he said.

Normally he’d have bought more than eight tonnes of fertilizer by now, but he’s waiting to see what will happen.

“Do I really want to do that if it’s going to flood again?” he asked.

With plans being made by city officials now for this year’s freshet, some of the farmers and owners are worried it will flood again if nothing is done to prevent it.

“That berm washed away,” said Hanne Van Den Brink. “So the water doesn’t even have to come up as high as it did last year.”

They don’t know what they’ll do if it happens again, she said, but they have been talking about building some type of protective structure themselves.

“We’ll be bringing that up at the meeting,” she said.