News

City funds $180,000 study on Fraser River erosion

Potential flooding caused by a breach of the Fraser River dikes due to erosion could impact key infrastructure, such as the Abbotsford-Mission bridge and highway, the water treatment plant and railways, as well as thousands of acres of farmland. - Tyler Olsen
Potential flooding caused by a breach of the Fraser River dikes due to erosion could impact key infrastructure, such as the Abbotsford-Mission bridge and highway, the water treatment plant and railways, as well as thousands of acres of farmland.
— image credit: Tyler Olsen

After spending more than $1 million this year to fix erosion on the banks of the Fraser River, city council has approved another $180,000 to fund a study of the ongoing issue occurring on the river’s Abbotsford banks.

Council voted on Monday to fund the initiative in order to collect data on the underlying causes of the erosion, as well as identify the risks, solutions and costs, while prioritizing mitigation efforts.

Concerns about the erosion stem from its proximity to the Matsqui dike. Though the eroding land is part of Matsqui Trail Regional Park, under the jurisdiction of Metro Vancouver, and the Fraser River is a provincial responsibility, council is concerned the impact of a breach in the dike and the potential flooding in Abbotsford could compromise key infrastructure – including the water treatment plant, the railways, the Abbotsford-Mission bridge and highway, as well as 12,000 acres of farmland.

The study will explore the potential impact of continued erosion.

Rob Isaac, the city’s director of wastewater and drainage, said the study will be completed by Northwest Hydraulics Consultants, a group that has done consulting for the Fraser Basin Council, a non-profit organization that aims to advance sustainability in the Fraser River basin.

Isaac said they will also work collaboratively with the provincial flood management group.

“They are the technical experts that we want to be partners with, to make sure that the results we get they agree with and they vet along the way.”

Council expressed hope that the study would convince senior governments of the severity of the issue and the necessity of a long-term solution.

Coun. Henry Braun said he wasn’t thrilled to spend more money on the report, but said he saw it as a good investment to leverage the provincial and federal governments. He said the city cannot afford to take on the whole project of fixing the river bank issues, but “left unattended, we could see catastrophe.”

Five erosion arcs have formed between Sumas Mountain and Matsqui Prairie since 1997, according to staff. A report from city staff says that the river flow is changing direction, causing scouring and deepening at the base of the bank. Based on past engineering studies, new erosion arcs are expected to form until the problems are mitigated.

Mayor Bruce Banman said the city must be able to prove the potential impact of continued erosion to the provincial and federal government, which he said could be more than $1 billion in damage should the dikes be breached.

“While this is just our small part, this study and the collaboration will go from Hope to Richmond.

“This is one of the major rivers in Canada. My suspicion is that if we had these kinds of problems on the East Coast, people would be working on it.”

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