The heavy equipment and flaggers in fluorescent vests were out in full force Monday preparing for the dike work on Young Road.
Young Road residents have hired legal counsel to try to get City of Chilliwack to hold off on the project, but equipment operators started taking out trees and shrubs nonetheless along the one-kilometre stretch.
The city’s position is that raising the Young Road dike by one metre is required for flood protection and to meet provincial standards.
But Young Road resident Peggy Fridriksdottir said city officials are not listening to the concerns of impacted property owners, in proceeding with the project over their objections.
They’ve so far sent a lawyer’s letter, put up signage, and sent several letters to the city from residents. The most recent is requesting cost estimates of driveway impacts that many of the residents are concerned about, and a meeting with residents to discuss it.
Residents are planning a meeting for Saturday to continue the fight.
Acting Mayor Sam Waddington warned in a press release Friday that even though it has been years since Chilliwack had a serious flood, they need to proceed with the work.
It’s been flagged by staff as the most vulnerable section, but the residents through a lawyer have questioned the efficacy of raising the dike in this location, saying it will mostly lower their property values, and not protect the neighbours adequately.
“We understand that some people feel this is affecting them adversely,” Acting Mayor Waddington told The Progress. “We received the same type of complaints when we widened Evans Road or built the roundabout.”
It’s the municipality’s job to act in the public’s best interests, however.
“The municipality is responsible for local flood control measures, and must act in the best interests of its residents in trying to prevent the tragic and devastating results that a flood can bring,” Waddington said in a release last Friday.
He advised residents to be a little patient as the dike construction project will be carried out into the summer.
“We’re only two days into it,” he said. “We will knock on those doors and have those conversations.”
All the costs, even of potential litigation, are built into the project estimates, or covered in some way.
In terms of alternate alignments, like extending the wing dike, they looked at it, and it’s too expensive with a pricetag of upwards of $50 million, he said.
“The alternate alignments have massive cost implications, and the local First Nations would have to spearhead the project for their own communities.”
But despite all that, it’s simpler even.
“I don’t think any of these are the issues. The real issue is the inconvenience of change in the neighbourhoods that the dike project will bring.”
But the work is required because the Young Road Dike section will protect 40,000 Chilliwack residents, the downtown core area, the hospital, water and sewer infrastructure, as well as BC Hydro, Telus, CN Railway and the Trans-Canada Highway.
The potential flood damage would be catastrophic, they’ve said. and the project is on the heels of years of work by the province to model hydrological conditions, and city officials are acting on the advice and recommendations of qualified professionals.
“We’re not new to this,” the acting mayor underlined. “We have to do this. If it has adverse effects, we pay them fairly and move on. Everyone who drives over it will thank us and our flood protection will be built to a high standard.”
The whole decision weighed on him.
“The question was do we risk inconveniencing a few to potentially save the neighbourhood from catastrophic flood? As local government, these are questions we have to weigh. And I don’t regret this decision.”