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Abbotsford mayor says he believes Nooksack River issues ‘will get fixed’

Henry Braun says ‘it always seem to take a catastrophe’ for issues to be addressed
In the area of Marion and Campbell roads on Sumas Prairie in east Abbotsford on Nov. 22, 2021. (Vikki Hopes/Abbotsford News)

Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun says he believes the issues with the Nooksack River in Washington State that contributed to the recent flooding will be solved.

Braun, speaking at the city’s daily press conference on Wednesday (Nov. 24), was responding to questions about what the U.S. is doing to ensure that the Nooksack doesn’t continue to overflow during atmospheric-river events.

Braun said those are discussions that need to happen between the American and Canadian governments, but there are solutions that were outlined in a report commissioned by Abbotsford council in late 2020.

The result was the comprehensive Nooksack River Overflow Flood Mitigation Plan.

“I have had good conversations with the prime minister and the premier and many provincial ministers. I really believe that this time, it will get fixed. The sad part is it always seems to take a catastrophe for stuff to get fixed,” he said.

Braun said one of the solutions is permanently repairing the Abbotsford dikes – at a cost of around $500-$600 million – that were breached as the floodwaters made their way across Sumas Prairie.

RELATED: What’s in the floodwater? Toxicity of water detailed in recent Abbotsford study

He said the state of the dikes has been an issue for at least the last 30 years, with local government consistently requesting federal and provincial help.

A task force was formed after the previous flood in 1990 to address the issues on both sides of the border.

“All those reports are wonderful reports. But if they just sit on the shelf, they’re useless,” Braun said.

He also addressed the heavy rainfall that has been forecast for the region over the coming days, saying that crews have been ensuring that the city is “as ready as we can be.”

Braun said, as of Wednesday, the repair to the main dike breach near No. 3 Road is 90 per cent complete, and another three feet in height is expected to be added before the first heavy rainfall hits Thursday.

Braun said crews also made good progress overnight with reinforcements to the dike upstream of Atkinson Road.

To date, 21 bridges, 93 kilometres of road, and 378 culverts have been inspected by engineers.

Braun said some 22,000 acres of the eastern Sumas Prairie is still under water – seven feet deep in the central portion – including 1,200 acres of blueberry farms.

RELATED: Incoming storms expected to bring outages, rising waters: BC Hydro

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Vikki Hopes

About the Author: Vikki Hopes

I have been a journalist for almost 40 years, and have been at the Abbotsford News since 1991.
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