Why Chilliwack doesn’t have to worry

As city engineer David Blain told Chilliwack city council on Tuesday, the current system will serve us well.

Last week in this space, we urged Chilliwack residents to keep the current Fraser River warnings in perspective; that, while the region has a history of flooding, dike improvements over recent years, and the expected river volumes, make it unlikely we’ll see a major event in the immediate future.

We stick by that claim.

On Monday, the City of Chilliwack issued an “evacuation alert” for residents living outside the city’s diking system. That’s part of the city’s protocol; it’s what it is supposed to do.

But the announcement generated reaction that at times bordered on hysterical. One Vancouver newspaper reported Chilliwack was about be “inundated.”

Hogwash.

Yes, a handful of properties outside the dike are at risk. But Chilliwack itself remains well protected behind a diking system that can handle flood levels of more than eight metres.

Predictions for this week suggest the Fraser will peak Friday at just  under 6.4 meters.

It’s hard to dispute the awesome power of the Fraser River, especially while watching it gnaw away the shoreline at Island 22.

But the fact remains that much effort has been made over the years to tame that power and protect the lives and property on this side of the dike.

True, more can always be done. And city officials continue to lobby various levels of government for funding to help extend and strengthen the diking system.

But as city engineer David Blain told Chilliwack city council on Tuesday, the current system will serve us well.

“Even the highest [river level] projection so far is only up to seven metres. There’s no risk the dike will be overtopped,” he said. “It’s not even going to come close.”