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Abbotsford gets $76.6M from province for pump-station upgrades

Barrowtown project designed to make Sumas Prairie more resilient to flooding
Premier David Eby was at Barrowtown pump station on Wednesday (Feb. 14) to announce $76.6 million in funding for upgrades to the site. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)

The province is providing $76.6 million in upgrades to the Barrowtown pump station in Abbotsford, it was announced Wednesday (Feb. 14) at the site.

Premier David Eby was on hand for the announcement, along with Emergency Management Minister Bowinn Ma, Abbotsford-Mission MLA and Agriculture Minister Pam Alexis, Sumas First Nation Coun. Troy Ganzeveld and Abbotsford Mayor Ross Siemens.

Eby said the 2021 Sumas Prairie floods could have been much worse if the pump station had failed.

“We know that we are going to see more frequent and severe weather events that threaten people’s homes, livelihoods and communities,” he said.

“Ensuring that the Barrowtown pump station is equipped and ready for the near term, while we do longer term work on international agreements and modernization, is how we will keep people and this community safe for decades to come.”

RELATED: Abbotsford applies for $1.6B in federal flood-mitigation funds

The upgrades covered under the funding include:

• adding a six-metre flood wall to reduce the possibility of the station shutting down if the Sumas Prairie is flooded;

• upgrading the debris screen (trash rack) to reduce fish access to the pumps and prevent large debris from entering the system intake;

• replacing pump motors to improve station efficiency and operating flexibility, as well as increasing its overall pumping capacity;

• transitioning to a dual substation with the addition of a second BC Hydro power feed; and

• replacing sandbags with concrete blocks on North Parallel Road.

The Barrowtown pump station originally opened in 1983, and was built to pump water out of the low-lying prairie lands via the Sumas Canal and into the Fraser River. It was nearly overwhelmed when flood waters breached the Sumas River dike during the atmospheric rivers of November 2021.

Siemens said increasing Barrowtown’s capacity “is critical to protecting our city during any future flooding disasters.”

“Being able to start this capacity-building work is a significant step and we are grateful to the government of B.C. for this important investment in our community, in our residents and in our businesses,” he said.

“As a city, we will continue advocating for the other components of our urgent flood works plan to ensure our families, farmers, businesses and our provincial food system remain secure.”

RELATED: Abbotsford, Chilliwack, First Nations and province sign flood-mitigation framework

A press release states that the province has so far contributed more than $180 million to support Abbotsford flood recovery and mitigation, including more than 30 dike and infrastructure repairs, building a new water system, and providing disaster relief funds to more than 1,000 families, small businesses and farms.

In April 2023, the Sumas River Flood Mitigation Collaborative Framework was signed by the province; Semá:th, Matsqui and Leq’á:mel First Nations; the City of Abbotsford; and the City of Chilliwack “to support the shared work of making Sumas Prairie more resilient to flooding.”

This was followed in October by the Transboundary Flood Initiative, an agreement with the City of Abbotsford; Whatcom County in Washington state; the Sumas, Matsqui and leg’a:mel First Nations; the Nooksack Indian Tribe; and the Lummi Nation.

The initiative addresses flood risks and restoring salmon habitat in the Nooksack and Sumas River watersheds on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border.

RELATED: B.C., Washington to collaborate on initiatives after 2021 Fraser Valley floods