The toppling of two trees into the Fraser River has led to substantial erosion near the Matsqui Dike. City of Abbotsford image and map

After trees topple into Fraser River, erosion damage may cost Abbotsford taxpayers $131,000

Erosion damaged part of a trail and threatens nearby Matsqui Dike

Abbotsford taxpayers may have to pay more than $100,000 to deal with the consequences of two trees that toppled into the Fraser River recently.

On August 9, a large stretch of new erosion was spotted on the south side of the river, just east of the railway bridge. Upon inspection, it became apparent that two of the cottonwood trees that line the river had fallen into the Fraser, taking a healthy chunk of the shore and a part of the riverside trail with it.

Worryingly, the stretch of erosion is within 10 to 15 metres of the Matsqui Dike, which protects billions of dollars worth of farmland. It’s also a new front in the city’s battle against the Fraser River. Several kilometres to the east, hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent to slow erosion on the south side of the river.

RELATED: Deepest part of Fraser River shifting course

RELATED: Engineers to build large model of Fraser River to analyze erosion near Abbotsford

Repairing the bank to prevent future erosion could cost as much as $131,000, a geotechnical consulting firm told the city. It’s possible the cost will be significantly cheaper, but contingencies pushed the bill above $100,000.

The city asked Emergency Management BC for funding to pay for the repairs, but was told that the project wasn’t eligible for funding because it wasn’t to repair “critical infrastructure.”

That prompted disbelief from Abbotsford’s local politicians.

“While the pictures are very evident, when you see it first hand and you see how much [of the bank] has been taken, it’s very impactful,” Coun. Sandy Blue said. The erosion appears to be very close to critical infrastructure.”

“It could have fooled me,” Coun. Dave Loewen said.

City staff plan to emphasize proximity to the dike in a new grant application..

Loewen said the city should also make it known that even if it does end up footing the bill, municipalities shouldn’t be paying for costs related to dikes.

“I know what the practice has been historically, but this is not local government mandate to repair dikes,” he said. “It’s become that to some extent, but it is a provincial and federal matter.”

Mayor Henry Braun agreed.

“I think we do need to send a strongly worded letter back to EMBC because they must not be understanding this.”

“This is 20 metres from our dike. The farmers are concerned about this. While relatively speaking this is a small amount of money – $130,000 – but the principle and precedent that we’re setting is a concern to me.”

As for the erosion danger posed by the Cottonwoods along the river bank, Braun said the city will need to try to identify trees before they topple over and bring the bank with them.

The city does spend $25,000 a year on a program to identify such hazardous trees, although that work missed the trees that came down this summer.

“We’ll continue that program, but there are many, many, many trees along that stretch there,” said Rob Isaac, the general manager of engineering and regional utilities.

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