Decades of development damaged central Abbotsford’s watershed. Can new development fix it?

Decades of development damaged central Abbotsford’s watershed. Can new development fix it?

Watershed in poor environment health and threatened by climate change, city staff say

The watershed that collects the bulk of central Abbotsford’s rain and run-off is in poor environmental health thanks to decades of development and losses of vegetation.

The Willband Creek watershed collects the run-off for most of central Abbotsford between McCallum and Clearbrook roads, including the historic downtown and the city centre area along South Fraser Way. It also includes Mill Lake.

The city is working to develop a long-term stormwater management plan for the area, and staff reported this week that the area would be defined as an “extremely impacted watershed.” That finding, staff reported, “could be expected, given the loss of intact riparian forest and high imperviousness.”

The watershed has high-quality parts, the report says, but those are “outweighed by the poor-quality components.” Nine-tenths of Abbotsford’s urban core is covered by impervious surfaces like pavement and roofs.

Horn Creek, Boa Brook and Thiessen Creek are in better health, the report says. Horn Creek, though, has a separate set of challenges, with erosion causing a medium-to-high risk of bank stability failures along the watercourse.

The city has worked in recent years on protecting the environment, but the report says “this has not been a seamless effort.” That is, in part, because property owners and developers seem to see adhering to the city’s environmental-protection rules as an expense and burden, rather than an important way to preserve the area’s ecology. “Getting property owners on side will be vital to repairing the watershed’s health,” a staff report says.

While past development is fingered for the current health of the watershed, council heard that new developments will provide some of the best opportunities to improve things.

Climate change and resulting heavier rain events have been deemed to be the largest long-term threat to the health of the watershed and erosion problems. Those increased challenges, though, can be mitigated in large part by “implementing effective source controls through redevelopment,” staff said.

The idea, essentially, is that older properties weren’t developed with runoff and stormwater flows in mind. New developments are better designed, and can reduce the amount of water that ends up flowing through the narrow ravines and streams that drain the region, staff believe. Things like parking lots can feature natural elements that are aesthetically pleasing but actually focused on diverting water into the ground, rather than into storm pipes.

But improvements won’t happen overnight.

“It will take time for the redevelopment of the urban area to show benefits,” Tyler Bowie, the city’s director of infrastructure planning, told council.

Beyond development with more trees and less pavement, the city can consider several other ways to improve both the ability of the storm sewers to drain waters during storms and bolster the environmental health of the watershed. Those include studying and improving critical pipes and detection ponds.

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
tolsen@abbynews.com


@ty_olsen
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chilliwack Search and Rescue volunteers say that a call on April 17 on Vedder Mountain was affected by bikers who rode through the rescue site, throwing rocks onto members and the patient. (Chilliwack Search and Rescue image)
Chilliwack Search and Rescue team, and patient, sprayed with rocks and dirt during rescue

Volunteer crew speaks out after riders on Vedder Mountain show no courtesy at accident scene

Agassiz Fire Department has been called to an ATV rollover on Harrison East Forest Service Road on Sunday, April 18, 2021. (Google Maps)
Agassiz Fire called out to ATV rollover incident on Harrison FSR

Morning call follows exceptionally busy Saturday as temperatures soar in Fraser Valley

A Chilliwack Search and Rescue truck heads down Vedder Road towards Cultus Lake to assist a dirtbiker with a broken leg. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Emergency crews, SAR busy with three separate outdoor recreation incidents in Chilliwack area

Calls in 1 afternoon include ATV collision, parachuter who fell from tree, dirtbiker with broken leg

Chilliwack’s historic Royal Hotel is offering COVID-style wedding packages for two weeks in June. (Facebook/ Royal Hotel Chilliwack)
Chilliwack hotel offers pop-up, COVID-style weddings for 2 weeks this June

‘Weddings can still happen, albeit in a different fashion,’ says Laura Reid of Royal Hotel

Nick Warmerdam and his dog Diesel are inviting locals to check out the Lakeland Farm U-pick Flower Farm this spring. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
VIDEO & SLIDESHOW: Abbotsford’s Lakeland Flowers opens for spring

Tulip farm attraction opened on April 14, open to the public daily seven days a week

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

(Black Press file photo).
Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country's crime rate ticked up again in 2018, for a fourth year in a row, though it was still lower than it was a decade ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of April 18

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read