The Safe Surrey Coalition majority on city council defeated a rival councillor’s motion on Monday requesting that the city’s engineering department assess the performance of Surrey’s natural drainage system during recent “extraordinary” flooding and report back to council with its findings.
Coun. Brenda Locke noted that in the mid-1970s Surrey took a “unique” approach to storm-water management by preserving its “rich labyrinth” of natural waterways instead of installing concrete culverts to tackle 100-year floods.
“I know we have a different system than some other cities do and I think Surrey’s fared fairly well through the last floods,” she told council. “I just want to get a report on how our system’s working in comparison to others and to ensure it’s doing what it’s supposed to be doing.”
She said she thought the city would have received more complaints than it did about the effect “torrential” rain had on the Little Campbell River in South Surrey. “We sure didn’t get as many complaints as I thought we would from residents, I’ve only heard from a couple. It was, however, disturbing to watch some of the salmon, the coho, coming out of the ponds and onto the roadways as they did at the fish and game club.”
Coun. Doug Elford voted against her motion, saying “it’s redundant right now.”
“I understand the intent of it but we’ve already received a presentation at the community services committee on this exact same topic so it would be my expectation that all cities would entertain a review of their systems particularly after a storm like that and I believe the city already has,” Elford said.
Scott Neuman, Surrey’s general manager of engineering, said city staff is already preparing a corporate report for council on the flood response “and the great work our staff have done” with aerial photographs.
“It’s focused on the city and the lowlands, not necessarily the natural drainage component that was just kind-of mentioned,” Neuman said.
The City of Surrey received about 800 service requests after the Nov. 13 to 15 flooding in a few days and within a week responded to about 60 per cent of them, with about 150 staff members being deployed within those particular three days.
Coun. Laurie Guerra echoed Elford. “I think it’s a bit redundant,” she said, while Coun. Jack Hundial remarked that the public “doesn’t always receive our inter-office memos.”
“I think everyone agrees here that the issue of flooding has certainly been topical and on people’s minds, certainly Surrey residents, in the last few weeks,” Hundial said.