The pre-freshet Fraser River in Chilliwack in April 2018. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)

Major Fraser River flood could cause $30 billion in economic impact

Municipalities from Hope to Richmond could be affected

Current diking infrastructure along the Fraser River from Hope to Richmond does not have what it takes to stop a major flooding event if and when it comes.

And the Fraser Basin Council estimates in a 2016 study the economic impacts of a major flooding event in the Lower Mainland could be $20 to $30 billion.

• READ MORE: Valley dikes too low to withstand major Fraser River flood

“There are likely to be larger and more frequent Fraser River and coastal floods in the future because of sea level rise and other projected impacts of climate change – and current diking infrastructure is inadequate to withstand a major flood,” said Steve Litke, a senior program manager with the Fraser Basin Council. “It’s timely for leaders to look at options for more robust mitigation works as well as more effective land use strategies for floodplain areas, and to come together on a plan that meets priorities across the region.”

Stephen Bruyneel, executive director of the Fraser River Discovery Centre (FRDC), said the catastrophic economic impacts from a major flood could be four to five times that of Alberta’s devastating floods in 2013.

The FRDC is hosting a public talk in New Westminster on May 31 featuring Steve Litke as guest speaker who will discuss the impacts of a major flood and steps in the development of a long-term flood strategy for the region. The event is part of the Fraser River Dialogue series.

The Lower Mainland Flood Management Strategy (LFFMS) launched in 2014 to reduce flood risk along the lower Fraser River and the coast.

Participants include the Government of Canada, the Province of British Columbia, Lower Mainland local governments, First Nations and several non-governmental and academic entities in the region. The Fraser Basin Council serves as program manager and facilitator.

• READ MORE: More than $1 billion in Fraser Valley agriculture at risk from flooding

Phase 1 of the LFFMS included an analysis of Lower Mainland flood scenarios, a regional assessment of flood vulnerabilities, and a review of current flood mitigation works and practices in the region.

It showed the critical importance of a regional strategy and a major investment in flood mitigation to avoid costs associated with of a major flood event. Phase 2 is underway and expected to conclude in 2019.

The Fraser River Dialogue series was launched by the FRDC in 2017 as a forum for public education and discussion on important issues related to the living, working Fraser River. Its goals are to engage interested parties: from a fact-based, triple-bottom line perspective that is apolitical and non-ideological; through an approach to dialogue and information exchange that is open and positive; and in an environment that is respectful and safe for all questions, comments and opinions.

Tickets to the May 31 event are $25 and can be purchased at www.fraserriverdiscovery.org/FRD.

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Residents evacuate over sandbags from Carey Point in Chilliwack during the 2012 high waters. (Paul Henderson file)

Sandbags at Carey Point in Chilliwack during the 2012 high waters. (Paul Henderson file)

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