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Fraser River communities to share $7.5M for flood mitigation, dike improvements

4 flood resilience projects announced for Metro Vancouver, Leq’á:mel First Nation, FVRD, and Hope
Properties on Hatzic Lake surrounded by high water after floodwaters began to recede, near Mission, B.C., on Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck file)

Fraser River communities concerned about future flood risks will be better protected with dike improvements, enhanced flood-mitigation, and watershed-restoration.

Provincial funding was announced May 2 for four projects in Metro Vancouver, Leq’á:mel First Nation, Fraser Valley Regional District, and the District of Hope.

“We know people living in the Fraser Valley are concerned about a repeat of the devastating November 2021 flooding, particularly as we expect more climate-related events in the years to come,” said Bowinn Ma, minister of emergency management and climate readiness in a release.

They’ll share be sharing a pool of almost $7.5 million in funding grants to increase flood resilience along the banks of the Coquihalla River, Fraser River and Hatzic Lake, including critical watersheds.

FVRD Chair Jason Lum was buoyed by the news.

“The Hatzic Lake watershed is incredibly complex, both in terms of governance and the ongoing flood management of the area. This initial funding is a signal from the Province of British Columbia that the Hatzic watershed is a priority, and it will help augment the process toward protecting this valuable resource and the people who live in these flood-risk areas.”

Abbotsford-Mission MLA Pam Alexis said investing now in flood prevention is “essential” to ensuring the safety of the region’s population.

“These projects are a step in the right direction to protecting and strengthening our communities from potential flooding events.”

Leq’á:mel Chief Alice Thompson (Mae’xe) said the funding is welcome recognition of the leadership role that Leq’á:mel First Nation plays in stewarding its territory and watershed restoration.

“The support from the Province will help us address the cumulative damage to our watershed, as well as restore our Indigenous governance authority over our territory, which we never ceded nor surrendered,” Thompson said. “These funds will add to our capacity to lead an innovative, collaborative planning process with our community, neighbours and all levels of government in developing a climate resilient and biodiverse watershed.”

District of Hope Mayor Victor Smith said the funds will focus on data-gathering around climate change and flood-mitigation work.

“The Coquihalla, along with other areas, was significantly affected, resulting in new concerns about flooding and possible hazards. It is our earnest hope that the provincial government will continue its climate change work by both approving and funding municipalities and First Nations to undertake repairs, mitigation and prevention projects along the Coquihalla.”

The four projects:

Barnston Island dike improvements - $5.3 million

Metro Vancouver will receive for dike improvements to ensure the island can withstand a once-in-50-years flood to keep people safe and enable farming activity to continue. The funds will also support other flood-risk-reduction efforts, such as updating dike assessments, flood infrastructure improvements and design standards.

Leq’á:mel First Nation watershed recovery capacity - $1.2 million

Leq’á:mel First Nation will undertake watershed recovery by offering support and leadership, and guide flood-recovery-related projects affecting Leq’á:mel territory. It will also support “timely and collaborative approaches” to watershed recovery that protect residents, farmers and infrastructure.

Hatzic Lake flood mitigation - $500,000

The Fraser Valley Regional District will offer support and leadership in the Hatzic Lake flood-mitigation planning table and support actions to reduce flood risk in the Hatzic Lake flood zone.

Lower Coquihalla watershed resiliency - $500,000

The District of Hope will undertake watershed resiliency planning for the Lower Coquihalla watershed that looks beyond traditional flood infrastructure, encompasses regional partners and works toward building resilience to future flooding.

The four projects come on the heels of other major flood protection new in the Fraser Valley, including the City of Abbotsford’s $3.2 million for Barrowtown pump station flood-protection upgrades, and $5.3 million for other recovery projects in April 2023, and in February 2023, $5 million for shoreline stabilization to complement a new dike project along the Fraser River to better protect Sqwá First Nation, Shxwhá:y Village and Chilliwack from flooding.

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Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering the arts, city hall, as well as Indigenous, and climate change stories.
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