Permanent repairs to the Sumas Dike in Abbotsford are expected to be completed by the end of November, with $1.6 million in funding coming from the province’s Disaster Financial Assistance (DFA) program.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth made the announcement Thursday (Nov. 10) at the dike – in the 39200 block of North Parallel Road – with Semá:th (Sumas) First Nation Chief Dalton Silver and new Abbotsford Mayor Ross Siemens.
The dike was breached last November, as floodwaters coursed across Sumas Prairie when torrential record rainfall hit the area and the Nooksack River in Washington state topped its banks.
Farnworth said last year’s flooding and landslides caused “substantial sediment movement and changes” to the province’s river systems.
He said more than 500 debris sites have been cleared so far, and more than $41 million in funding has been approved to repair and restore sites on the local Sumas River, Clayburn Creek, Kilgard Creek and the Vedder Canal.
Farnworth said the province is also working closely “to identify solutions with our neighbours to the south.”
He said a trans-border initiative that was started in March is responding to “the more frequent and severe flooding of the Nooksack River caused by climate change.”
“We are now working on establishing a governance structure that includes municipal, Indigenous, provincial, state and federal officials to advance the priorities identified under the trans-border initiative,” he said.
“The ongoing risk of flood is very real.”
Farnworth said the DFA has so far distributed more than $24 million to help people repair and rebuild their homes and businesses, with $10 million of that going to 1,300 claims in the Fraser Valley.
He said changes are underway – including digitizing applications – to make it easier to access the funding.
Silver said he is thankful that First Nations groups are being included in the discussions.
“I think, over the past, I’ve made a lot of noise .. and the mayors and others know that the noise I’ve been making is about our participation in the planning of things like this, of many different initiatives on our lands and territories,” he said.
“The lands are sacred to us .. the wildlife and things that are evident here today.”
Siemens said he is pleased “with the progress being made” on flood mitigation.
“We know that the need is great and we know that there’s a lot of important work that needs to be done,” he said.
“As a city, we continue to advocate for the needs of our community and will work with all levels of government, including our local and Indigenous leadership to implement solutions that best protect all the people in this area from future flood events.”
Siemens said the city’s top priority will continue to be a new Sumas River pump station, which will require funding support from senior levels of government.
Abbotsford council in June approved in principle a long-term flood-mitigation strategy which, over the course of many years, would cost up to $2.8 billion.