The historic November 2021 floodwaters have long ago receded, but the damage done continues to be felt by those with businesses on the Sumas Flats.
One of those hardest hit by the flood was the Fraserglen Golf Course and Training Centre. The golf course, part of the floodplain, saw a torrent of water pass through after an atmospheric river caused the Nooksack River in Washington State to overflow its banks.
Fraserglen owners Dave and Corrine Allan remember watching footage from cameras on the property as events unfolded.
“There was no warning,” Corrine said. “We weren’t on site but we were watching on camera and we just didn’t know what was happening. We saw the water rushing. It came like a wall.”
The next morning, the Allans surveyed the damage from kayaks they paddled around the property. Water, several feet high, invaded all seven of the buildings on the property.
More than $77,000 worth of merchandise was destroyed in the pro shop. The adjacent restaurant and bar was ruined. An Airbnb rental home on the property sustained extensive damage. Repairs to the home have just been completed, and the Allans have guests booked once again.
Anything that wasn’t nailed down was greatly affected by the rushing waters. Pull carts and tables were found across the highway at Castle Fun Park. More than 40 power carts were submerged and damaged by water. Anything electric was pretty much lost to the flood, while gas-operated machines stood a slightly better chance of recovery.
It was a disaster that the Allans, owners of Fraserglen since 1992, could scarcely believe.
“It changed my life,” Corrine said. “It changed my family’s life.”
Course fared better than expected
And yet, while flood waters devastated buildings and equipment, the course itself managed to escape complete annihilation, due in large part to the nature of the flood itself. Because of the property’s location in the floodplain, most of the water came quickly and didn’t deposit a lot of sediment because of a steady current. It also left quicker than other parts of the Sumas Prairie.
While the floodwaters washed a lot of things off the property, they also left a lot of new stuff behind. Some of it just plain weird and inexplicable.
“Cheese – so much cheese. I don’t know where the cheese came from,” Corrine said with a laugh. “We found so much stuff, like zucchinis and pumpkins, because it was that time of year, and beer kegs. We found those giant marshmallow hay bales.”
And while the community rallied around those affected by the flood, Corrine is forever grateful to friends, family and the golf industry itself for coming to their aid.
“They took a lot of our equipment to fix,” she said. “The golf industry stepped up to the plate.”
Redwoods and Northview golf clubs brought volunteer crews to help in the clean up.
Not their first disaster
This isn’t the first time Fraserglen has had to deal with adversity as two ice storms – on Feb. 9 and Dec. 19 in 2017 – destroyed the netting that enclosed the driving range. Climate change is a very real thing if you ask Corrine, who said “extreme weather” is happening more frequently and with greater devastating effect.
Corrine’s sister lost her home to the White Rock Lake forest fire near Vernon last summer.
“We are at the mercy of the Nooksack and America,” Corrine said of future flooding potential. “If they don’t do anything, it will happen again.”
The golf course and driving range officially reopened March 5. All 18 holes of the par-62, 3,748-yard track are playable. Corrine expects the clubhouse will be fully functional soon, with the restaurant reopening in late May or June.
Disaster relief funds
The Abbotsford Disaster Relief Fund has generated more than $4.2 million to date, with Fraserglen an early recipient of an emergency cheque.
But the amount – $5,000 – doesn’t come nearly close enough to covering their losses. Because the business is on the floodplain, insurance was a non-starter. Likewise, while farmers were eligible for up to $300,000 through the provincial disaster relief fund, no such thing exists for private businesses.
“I call this place the Bermuda Triangle,” said Corrine, tongue in cheek. “There’s never a dull day at Fraserglen.”
A total of $400,000 was allocated for those who had damaged storage contents. This stream has been fully awarded and is closed. A separate amount of $600,000 has been awarded to date to impacted farmers and businesses and this stream is open and ongoing.
“There’s not been a set amount allocated for farmers and businesses as we have been assessing the need and trying to maximize what we can give each applicant from the total $4.2 million,” said Katerina Anastasiadis, CEO of the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce.
And while Anastasiadis is pleased at how quickly they disbursed the initial funds, she says more is hopefully coming.
“We were trying to preserve some funds for medium and long-term requests,” she said. “We review the applications every two weeks and are hoping there will be additional opportunities to give more funding in the future.”
Visit abbotsfordcf.org for more information about the Abbotsford Disaster Relief Fund.