As costs to B.C. flood response soar, province signals shift in funding

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Members of the Canadian Forces build a temporary dike with sandbags behind homes on Claiburn Creek ahead of a rain warning on November 24, 2021.Darryl Dyke/The Canadian Press

After more than a decade of fruitless lobbying by local governments, B.C. Premier John Horgan says he is now ready to fix a system that leaves individual communities with the responsibility for flood protection.

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Mr Horgan, answering a question this month about dyke failures caused by devastating floods in B.C., said the 2003 decision by the province to develop a flood authority was “a bad call” and promised that both Canada and B.C. We are ready to help fund repairs and upgrades to substandard dykes.

“We need to put in provincial and federal dollars to protect communities like yours,” he told a reporter from flood-ravaged Fraser Valley during a news conference Friday evening, “and making sure we’re not burdening Those dollars on the backs of local ratepayers. It just isn’t possible. It wasn’t a decision I would have made, but it’s a decision I’m bound to and, working with the prime minister, intend to fix I keep.”

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The BC government handed over flood control responsibility to local governments in 2003, creating a pool of governance, hampered by insufficient funding, overlapping jurisdictions, and gaps in knowledge and expertise. The system means there are 21 separate authorities in Metro Vancouver alone. Each is responsible for its own flood control plan and climate change preparedness in their regions.

This was an unwanted change that the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) has been protesting ever since. Local governments have been passing resolutions asking for help with flood control for at least 15 years – with increasing urgency.

The province funds some dyke upgrades when they meet high-cost seismic standards, but experts warn that still leaves communities vulnerable to flood disasters.

Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun welcomed Mr Horgan’s commitment, as his flooded community raced to repair the Sumas Dam, which failed during historic heavy rains, causing devastating damage in southern BC two weeks earlier Was.

Mr Brown met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Mike Farnsworth on Friday afternoon. “I impressed him on the importance of supporting our critical dike and drainage infrastructure,” he said during a news briefing on Saturday. “Dikes, like highways, are essential components of local infrastructure systems that significantly support many cities, and therefore require oversight and support by senior levels of government.”

Maps are shown to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a visit to the city by Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun, after rain lashed the western Canadian province of British Columbia, triggered landslides and flooding, and closed highways in Abbotsford, BC Gaya.Jennifer Gauthier/Reuters

The mayor said the effects of the failure of Abbotsford’s flood protection could have devastating and far-reaching effects. “If we are not supported, and Barrowtown [water] If the pump station fails, we expect there will be eight feet or more of water on Trans-Canada Highway 1 for months,” he said on Saturday, “resulting in the loss of residents and goods and services for the Lower Mainland and BC.” Can be an important transport route. Being out of commission for a year. ,

At the height of flooding following excessive rain in mid-November, Abbotsford officials were concerned that the Barrowtown Pump would fail, which would allow water from the Fraser River to flow into Sumas Prairie, which had already been flooded after the flood. Was.

The pump station was organized, and on Saturday, the mayor said it was now 95 percent complete, with assistance from the Canadian Armed Forces. But with more heavy weather systems on the way, Abbotsford remained on high alert on Saturday.

The BC NDP government has for some time acknowledged the challenges of the existing system of flood protection. In 2020, the Environment Ministry began working on a climate-change preparedness and adaptation strategy. But the work on the new flood strategy is still going on.

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