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 Monday.

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 Monday.

Mayor myth-busting on flood tour

Some members of city council toured the flooded zones of Chilliwack on Tuesday to get an up-close look at the 2011 freshet impacts.

Some members of city council toured the flooded zones of Chilliwack on Tuesday to get an up-close look at the 2011 freshet impacts.

“We were invited by some of the residents to come along and see what the river was doing,” said Mayor Sharon Gaetz.

A total of 17 properties outside the city diking infrastructure are facing seepage and flooding issues.

A group of impacted citizens wanted to offer their historical knowledge of river conditions, as well as showing the mayor the effects of erosion and flooding on a nearby hazelnut farm.

The mayor, accompanied by two city councillors, surveyed inundated farmlands, and sandbagged homes, and also went out in a jet boat on the Fraser River to look at the ongoing erosion problem on the river banks near Carey Point.

“We clearly have an issue to deal with, and we’re going to need some expert help in solving this,” said the mayor.

The protective berm near the site was eaten away by ongoing erosion due to shifting river currents. There is no level of government with a mandate to maintain it.

A scour hole resulted from the constant erosion at the base of the river bank and the “river is rushing in” at that point, she said.

At least two farm families say they’ve lost their crops and livelihoods.

“The city’s mandate is the safety of its residents. We’re monitoring the river, making sure our facts are correct, in explaining why there was all this seepage when it’s not even a high river year,” said Gaetz.

City officials have reiterated in the press and at the town hall meeting last week that property owners, living behind the orphaned “berm” built by the province in 1997, are responsible for any flood 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 effects.

City officials will be looking to the province for funding assistance to help bail out flooded residents, from the Provincial Emergency Program or other sources.

“We have MLAs that represent the area,” Gaetz said. “We are hoping they will be able to come forward and help the citizens.”

Gaetz said she had to clear up some confusion about what happens when a community declares a state of emergency during a disaster.

“There is a real misunderstanding that once a state of emergency is declared that the money will start flowing from the province. It’s not that simple.

“The declaration gives the city the right to enter properties, to forcibly evacuate citizens and take control of properties in order to mitigate effects. But it doesn’t guarantee more funding. There is a threshold that has to be met before that even kicks in.”