Ottawa should help B.C. create better flood relief plan, Senate report finds


A brand new Senate report is calling on the federal authorities to work with the provincial and native governments in B.C. to create a better, extra complete flood relief plan to guard the Fraser Valley from disastrous flooding sooner or later.

The Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry launched its findings on Thursday after listening to from almost two dozen witnesses concerning the disastrous results of flooding final November and the help the province provided within the aftermath.

“There’s no time for crimson tape within the fast aftermath of catastrophic flooding,” wrote Senator Paula Simons, deputy chair of the committee.

“The federal authorities should be sure that its agriculture and catastrophe relief help packages have sufficient monetary and human assets to rapidly help individuals, communities and companies reeling from pure disasters.”

Record rainfall pushed the Nooksack River in Washington over its banks in November, spilling throughout the border into Abbotsford’s Sumas Prairie. The flooded space is a former lake that was drained a few century in the past to create a few of Canada’s most efficient farmland.

Kayakers paddle down Trans Canada freeway 1 after flooding in Abbotsford, British Columbia, on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

In complete, the report mentioned the flooding within the Fraser Valley affected greater than 1,000 farms, 2.5 million livestock and greater than 150 sq. kilometres of land — an space equal to just about half the scale of the City of Abbotsford.

The witnesses spoke to the Senate committee this spring on a number of facets of the flood, starting from prevention and preparedness to survival and response.

One witness, University of British Columbia affiliate professor Brett Gilley mentioned Ottawa or the province should take into account the “politically troublesome process of … shopping for individuals out” and transferring them from the Sumas Prairie because it’s positioned on a flood plain — an concept Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun has beforehand described as not “on the desk.”

Nearly 90% of dikes less than customary, engineer says

Another witness, hydrotechnical engineer Monica Mannerström, pointed to a 2015 research which mentioned 87 per cent of the dikes within the Lower Mainland have been “in less-than-fair situation,” whereas 71 have been “anticipated to fail just by overtopping” within the occasion of a flood.

Angela Foothof with the B.C. Broiler Hatching Egg Producers’ Association mentioned it is well-known the dikes and water-pump station within the Sumas Prairie have wanted main upgrades for a few years.

The committee mentioned the new mitigation plan wants to deal with the inaction.

“[The new, recommended] plan should embody each a timeline for dike upgrades and the institution of a committee to look at flood mitigation measures, in addition to emergency preparedness and response methods,” the report learn.

Leaving infrastructure payments to municipalities ‘monumental mistake’

In phrases of value, Mayor Braun mentioned municipal governments do not have the funds for to cowl flood mitigation infrastructure as a result of they “obtain solely 8 to 10 cents of each tax greenback collected.”

“Characterizing the ‘downloading’ of infrastructure building and upkeep prices to municipal governments as a ‘monumental mistake,’ Henry Braun argued that this downloading ‘must be addressed by way of offering municipalities with ample monetary assets,” the report mentioned.

In April, Braun was amongst 28 British Columbia mayors who requested the federal authorities to ship $5 billion in promised funding as quickly as potential.

Workers dismantle a Tiger Dam on Nov. 30, 2021. The dam was constructed throughout Highway 1 to stem floodwater within the Sumas Prairie flood zone in Abbotsford, B.C. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

He mentioned the estimated value of bringing three dikes as much as provincial requirements was as excessive as $2.9 billion, with many of the funds anticipated to come back from the federal authorities.

At the time, federal Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair didn’t present a timeline for when the cash can be disbursed to communities however mentioned there are some complexities in making choices about prioritizing the spending of a restricted quantity of funding that may contain “troublesome choices.”

The Senate report on Thursday additionally discovered provincial and federal help provided to farmers within the aftermath of the flood was useful in “sure situations” however famous some individuals bumped into administrative issues after they tried to use for the funding.

The report additionally advisable the Canadian and U.S. governments work collectively to deal with the danger created by the Nooksack River in Washington in future.


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