BC funds flood defenses on the banks of the Fraser River in the Fraser Valley

The Barrowtown Pumping Station in Abbotsford, BC is pictured in December 2021.  (Ben Nelms/CBC - photo credit)

The Barrowtown Pumping Station in Abbotsford, BC is pictured in December 2021. (Ben Nelms/CBC – photo credit)

A British Columbia First Nation whose chief says he faces constant flood threats will get a boost from the province for coastal stabilization.

The $5 million earmarked for so-called rockfall erosion control measures will go to the Sqwa First Nation, the village of Shxwha:y and the town of Chilliwack.

The announcement comes a week after the province committed $23.4 million to 49 communities to help reduce the risk of future disasters related to natural hazards and climate change, including $150,000 to upgrade a drainage pumping station in Chilliwack.

In a press release Friday morning, the province announced that construction designs for the coastal stabilization will begin immediately and construction will begin in 2024.

The work also enables a new six-kilometer levee project along the Fraser River, including a new sluice crossing at Hope Slough and a new drainage pump system, funded with $45 million from Infrastructure Canada and $13 million from Indigenous Services Canada and $7 million from the city of Chilliwack.

Without flood mitigation and protection measures, Sqwa chief Lara Mussell says, the threat of rising water makes it difficult for nations to secure a future for their country.

She says the province’s commitment to coastal protection funding is helping to preserve its culture, traditions and way of life.

“It will also help improve the safety and well-being of our neighbors in the city of Chilliwack,” Mussell said.

Prevent future disasters

In November 2021, extreme rain flooded rivers and farmlands in southern BC, triggering mudslides that blocked all major highways connecting the lower mainland to the rest of the country.

It was one of the deadliest natural disasters to hit the province in a generation, resulting in the violent displacement of nearly 20,000 people and the deaths of thousands of animals.

In the Fraser Valley, flooding affected residents of the Sumas Prairie area of ​​Abbotsford and the community of Yarrow and Majuba Hill in Chilliwack.

Officials reported that the flooding was the result of the “impending failure” of the Barrowtown pumping station, which was the only thing keeping excess water from the Fraser River from entering the flooded area.

The province said the newly announced funding will enable immediate action to address erosion issues and enable planning and construction of the long-term levee project.

Premier David Eby says the people of BC have seen the effects of climate change firsthand with atmospheric fluxes, a heat dome and record wildfire seasons, and the funding is helping to recognize tribal peoples as partners and leaders in emergency management.

“The work we fund today will protect people and help recognize tribal peoples as true partners and leaders in emergency management,” Eby said.


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