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New policy on flood mitigation to tackle risks to B.C. businesses and infrastructure

Business leaders from Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Surrey co-authored action-oriented policy
Abbotsford mayor Henry Braun captured video of a flooded Highway 1 between Cole Road and No. 3 Road looking east on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)

The prospect of future flooding has been identified by B.C. business leaders as a formidable economic threat requiring action and co-operation.

Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce, together with Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce and the Surrey Board of Trade, took the initiative recently to hammer out a new policy, ‘Floods: An Emerging Economic Threat Requiring Action.’

“Our communities have faced a host of challenges over the last two years, including a global pandemic and devastating floods and fires,” said Leanna Kemp, executive director of the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce. “Together the Fraser Valley Chambers of Commerce are united in supporting businesses, farmers, and communities alike in their resiliency and recovery.”

The flood policy presents the pressing need for tackling flood risks, including rebuilding and improving of key infrastructure, given the devastation from events in the fall of 2021. It was passed unanimously at the BC Chamber of Commerce AGM in Prince George, June 7-9.

Chilliwack Chamber director Marlon Hall said he was encouraged to see the leadership and collaboration demonstrated by the AGM delegates.

“The 100 per cent in favour vote for the flooding-impacts policy highlights the importance of inter-regional co-operation to address issues that have a critical impact on individual communities and the province at large,” Hall said.

“The five detailed recommendations now become official BC Chamber positions when advocating with provincial and federal governments,” he said.

Local business communities will “have a voice” with the provincial government, Hall said.

The estimated potential damage due to wide-scale flooding across the Fraser Valley is significant, and would cost in the hundreds of million dollars.

Catastrophic flooding would also destroy residential, commercial, industrial, and agricultural properties, as well as cutting off roads and bridges, and causing widespread disruption to day-to-day living.

Flood protection structures, measures such as dikes and associated infrastructure (pump stations, flood boxes, rip rap and relief wells) throughout B.C. need to be upgraded to combat the threat of sea-level rise of up to one metre by 2100, the policy stressed. Significant funding will be needed to upgrade flood infrastructure throughout B.C.

Five recommendations for the B.C. government contained in the policy:

• Establish provincial funding in partnership with the federal government and B.C. municipalities through a strategic plan over five years to ensure upgrades to flood mitigation infrastructure and related transportation investments;

• Partner with the federal government to establish an enhanced and current emergency flood mitigation program with advice from municipal governments; and,

• Participate as a leader with the federal government on international discussions with the United States on cross-border flood risk mitigation;

• Engage in direct discussions and planning with Washington State on issues of mutual interest regarding flooding risks, mitigation and responsibilities; and,

• Work with the federal government to establish private insurance options and the Canadian banking sectors to plan for future natural disaster emergencies for better access to emergency coverage and mechanisms during crisis situations.

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RELATED: Indigenous-led plan focused on Lower Mainland flood management

RELATED: Region at elevated risk, Fraser Basin Council found in 2016

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Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering the arts, city hall, as well as Indigenous, and climate change stories.
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