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District of Hope looks at recovery plan for ‘vulnerable’ Coquihalla River

New guiding document will focus on short-term recovery goals in severe weather events
Several people stranded in Hope, trying to get out through the airport in November 2021. (Shari Morrison/Special to The News)

The atmospheric river event that pummelled Hope in November 2021 has left the town vulnerable, a report from District of Hope staff states.

And if another similar event were to happen in the region in the near future, infrastructure that was damaged during the storm will face damage again. So, they’ve been working on a guiding document that will help determine immediate needs for public safety, particularly along the Coquihalla River.

It’s called the 2021 Atmospheric River Recovery Plan and was presented to council on Monday night (June 27).

“If another severe high-water event occurred within the Coquihalla River in the near future,” it read in part, “unaddressed issues would very likely lead to more severe and wide-spread damage to both public and private properties.”

The plan lists short-term recovery goals and is considered a “living document,” which means it will be adapted over time as needs are met.

“Without this Recovery Plan, the district will not have a plan in place to help guide the repair of damage created by the 2021 Atmospheric River Event,” the report said. “The implications of not having this plan in place include not addressing risks to public safety, and risking further damage to local public infrastructure.”

Emergency works that were already completed during the event are not included in this plan. The report notes that the district has been working with the province, stakeholders and others to make some progress in repairs.

“However, as of this report, the only District-requested repair approved and completed is the Coquihalla Campground cleanup,” the report states. “All other projects were completed at the request of the province to address concerns regarding their critical infrastructure,” including the hospital’s riverbank.

The government has been funding a “recovery manager” at the district level since January to help with the workload, but it is immense.

Challenges noted by the report include funding and approvals, considering future impacts of climate change, environmental impacts on the river and provincial policy changes around works within and along rivers. There also is plenty of consultation and collaboration with local First Nations, Emergency Management BC, Ministries of Forests and Transportation, Health Emergency Management BC, TransMountain, the regional district, and more.

So despite, in our opinion, these proposed works being disaster-related, and worth immediate completion, the current approval and funding processes remain considerable and cross several ministries.

Coincidentally, the District of Hope had just completed a Coquihalla River flood risk, mapping and mitigation study just before the flooding, with LCI Consultants. That study identified 10 areas of concern, with three prioritized for completion. However, the flood has pushed back the work and a new study will be required due to the changes of the waterway.

The report also noted that the areas of concern in the study are indeed those that were impacted by the flooding.

The full District of Hope 2021 Atmospheric River Recovery Plan can be read in the June 27 agenda.

READ MORE: Fraser River forecasted to reach 1-in-100 year levels in Mission on July 7


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Jessica Peters

About the Author: Jessica Peters

I began my career in 1999, covering communities across the Fraser Valley ever since.
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