Flooded farmers count losses

Property owners and farmers hit by freshet flooding were hoping for reassurance at the town hall meeting hosted by City of Chilliwack last week.

Members of the Chilliwack Fire Department pass sandbags to each other while protecting a property from flood waters at the end of Ballam Road on June 6. Flooded farmers were hoping for reassurance at last week's town hall meeting.

Property owners and farmers hit by freshet flooding were hoping for reassurance at the town hall meeting hosted by City of Chilliwack last week.

But blueberry farmer Amarjit Gill said there wasn’t much on offer.

Their entire blueberry field they’ve been nurturing for six years is under water.

They stand to lose about 20 acres of berries that would have ripened next month, and probably the plants as well.

“This is a depressing situation for us. It’s not a one-man job to fix this,” Gill said. “Our whole life’s work is gone.”

Since they pay the same tax as everyone else, she said they should get the same service as those  behind the city diking infrastructure.

“No one seems responsible for this,” she said. “I understand the water is too high but they shouldn’t leave us hanging like this. We would have liked to have heard that once the water goes down, they will repair the berm.”

She hastened to add they are very “appreciative” of the emergency sandbagging efforts taken on their behalf, which likely saved the family home.

City officials made it clear that property owners living behind the orphaned “berm” built by the province in 1997, are responsible for any flood and erosion impacts themselves.  But in spite of this, the city nonetheless undertook an emergency program of flood work,

sandbagging and road work to mitigate some of the flooding.

“Possible funding avenues for business loss also came up at the meeting,” said city emergency planning coordinator James MacDonald. “Whether someone is eligible or not depends on the commodity they supply.”

The city decided to help facilitate a committee, comprised mostly of affected residents and owners, to discuss the “next steps” in mitigation, once the water recedes. They also agreed to undertake private well water testing, like they did during the high water of 2007, to protect public health and safety.

“The cool weather is in our favour now,” he said. “That being said we are consciously staying in touch with affected residents and working out what the next steps might be.”

At least 17 properties outside the Chilliwack dike system have been affected by the 2011 erosion and flooding.

The city can’t undertake any more preventative work until the freshet water levels go down, but they will ensure that prevention efforts “remain on the radar” for followup.

“It was not all doom and gloom,” MacDonald said about the meeting. “Obviously there is a bureaucracy in place, and we have to fit the needs and wants with what is available.

“I believe the majority left with a clearer understanding of what was and was not available, and some rumours were quashed.

“That was the intent of the meeting and everyone got the same message. That message might have been unpalatable for some, but I believe most were relieved to hear a consistent message coming from the city on this.”

Hazelnut farmer Hanne Van Den Brink said she and husband John have been growing nut trees for 25 years, but this year will be a complete washout.

High water is something they’re familiar with, but not like this. Their house is located inside the dike system, so it’s fine, she said.

But since the river current changed direction and started eroding the berm, they now face the terrible prospect of losing their entire back orchard, or 35 acres of hazelnut trees, planted in 1987.

“That’s our livelihood. So I don’t know what we’re going to do. It sounds like everyone will just be taking their losses,” Van Den Brink said. “We hope they will keep plugging away trying to secure funding from the province or somewhere to fix it.”

Some of the residents are frustrated that no one took responsibility for maintaining the orphaned berm in the years after it was built. Others were hoping for better news.

“I think we were quite disappointed. It was the same bureaucratic thing where it’s not their responsibility, and there’s no funding available at this point for disaster relief. When is it a disaster? For us it’s a disaster.

“We worked our whole lives and this year our income will be nil.”

Just Posted

Sardis Falcons lose heartbreaker to Abby Traditional in Fraser Valley final

The Grade 9 Falcons showed that the future of hoops at Sardis secondary may be very bright.

Chilliwack Chiefs coach Brian Maloney up for BCHL award

The league announced three nominees for the Joe Tennant Memorial Trophy as top coach.

Measles case confirmed within Fraser Health region

One case within Fraser Health is related to the outbreak in three Vancouver schools.

Harrison Festival to share the culture behind the music

Festival director Andy Hillhouse will be talking about nationalism in music, starting March 1

B.C. reservists gather for military communications training in Chilliwack

Canadian Army’s communication skills are used in battle as well as domestic emergencies

National Energy Board approves Trans Mountain pipeline again

Next step includes cabinet voting on the controversial expansion

B.C. Special Olympics officially underway in Vernon

Athlete’s Oath: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Vancouver Aquarium wants your help to name a baby killer whale

The public helped name Springer’s first calf, Spirit, and is being asked to help with the second

Guards protest firing of fellow officers charged with assault at B.C. prison

Corrections officers demonstrated in Maple Ridge on Friday afternoon

Skier dies at Revelstoke Mountain Resort

Cause of death for young man has not been released

R. Kelly charged with 10 counts of sexual abuse

R&B star has been accused of sexual misconduct involving women and underage girls for years

More sailings coming to 10 BC Ferries’ routes

Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said the sailings were originally cut in 2014

Cryptocurrency exchange CEO who suddenly died leaves Kelowna house in will

Gerald Cotten, holding the keys to money tied up in his virtual currency exchange, died in December.

Regulator’s report, coming today, unlikely to settle Trans Mountain pipeline battle

The Trans Mountain pipeline will remain a controversial topic both in the political ring and out

Most Read