Years of warnings about poor flood plans ignored prior to B.C. floods, says consulting firm

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A Vancouver-based flood management consulting firm says years of warnings about inadequate flood prevention and mitigation measures were ignored before last week’s devastating floods.

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In a report Earlier this year, Ebbwater Consulting warned that “the current model for flood risk governance in BC is broken,” and advised the province to take a more proactive approach.

The firm’s principal and founding engineer Tamsin Lyle said it draws on years of concern about more than 1,100 kilometers of sporadically built dykes across the province.

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“For the past 20 to 30 years we’ve been presenting this information, providing updates on what we think it will cost if a major flood occurs in the Fraser Valley or elsewhere in the country or in the province,” He told Granthshala News. ,

“But for the most part that falls on deaf ears unless there is actually an incident.”

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In 1948, the rupture of the dam contributed to one of the most devastating floods in the history of BC, According to the province.

That flood in the Fraser Valley – parts of which are under water again this week – caused many casualties, destroyed nearly 2,000 homes, and caused nearly $210 million in damage.

Dyke breaches also played a major role this time, with breaches in Abbotsford, BC, contributing to the evacuation and flooding of Sumas Prairie.

Today only the lower mainland has 600 km of dykes, but they are managed by various governments, farmers and other authorities or stakeholders, leading to inconsistent maintenance.

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Some dikes are “orphaned,” meaning they receive no maintenance.

“There are many that are substandard and we know that they fail when they are not maintained, and they fail even when they are maintained,” Lyall said.

“Dikes are not a good solution to all the problems of flood mitigation.”

Ebbwater Consulting advises the BC government to change its flood management “paradigm” and create a clear and consistent authority structure that spells out who is responsible for what.

This means a central knowledge center within the provincial government that collaborates with Ottawa and develops best practices throughout the province, and regional centers that focus on specific watersheds and support underserved communities. As per the 2021 report.

“To enable this big change, we also need to change how we approach the problem, to manage the fact that it is a classic, wicked and systemic problem,” Lyall explained.

British Columbia’s approach to flood management is a reflection of “the era of big engineering of the 1950s,” Lyle said, and there are now “many other solutions” that the province should consider.

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They include building more flood-resistant homes without drywall or carpeting, she said, changing land-use patterns, and moving critical infrastructure and vulnerable people out of potential paths of destruction.

“It will cost us billions of dollars to get back to at least functional condition,” Lyle said.

“It’s definitely an important thing that we need to think about when planning, but I don’t think we should act right away, while we’re all emotional and sad, because we’re going to make bad choices. this point.”

Three new atmospheric rivers are forecast to hit the province between Wednesday night and next Tuesday, and Environment Canada has warned they could worsen current flooding conditions.

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