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Lower Mainland of B.C. to boost flood prevention

With an eye on the critical infrastructure that lies along the Fraser River floodplain, the Fraser Basin Council has begun a multi-year initiative to prevent disaster.


With an eye on the critical infrastructure that lies along the Fraser River floodplain, the Fraser Basin Council has begun a multi-year initiative to prevent disaster.

A large group of governmental and industry organizations are supporting the Lower Mainland Flood Strategy, which was announced on July 15. The strategy recognizes that the current system of dykes and other measures is not enough and that there needs to be a greater emphasis on coordinating flood protection measures across the region.

“This flood management strategy reflects a serious, unprecedented commitment by the federal government, the province of B.C., 25 Lower Mainland local governments and other public and private sector organizations to work together on flood protection measures that will safeguard the region as a whole,” said Colin Hansen, chair of the Fraser Basin Council which is facilitating the initiative.

A recent study by the province indicated that the magnitude and frequency of large floods along the Fraser River, from Hope to the river mouth, will increase due to climate change and rising sea levels. The region is vulnerable from several sides — from the river, heavy rainfall and snowmelt, and from ocean tsunami.

Most of the flood protection structures in place date from 1968-1995, but they are not enough to protect critical infrastructure in the case of a major event. The Council says, “There are risks to ports, airports, highways, bridges, ferry terminals, oil and gas pipelines, as well as hydro-electricity, telecommunications, water and wastewater infrastructure.”

Because the communities depend on common infrastructure, says the Council, a large magnitude flood is therefore likely to affect half the population.

The plan is to develop strategies to ensure that building dykes and other flood protections in one area of the region won’t create problems in another.

The flood management strategy will be in two phases. Phase 1 (2014-2015) will assess the hazards and vulnerabilities across the region, and then assess flood management practices and policies. Some studies as part of Phase 1 have been done already for the province’s Ministry of Forestry, Lands and Natural Resources Water Management Branch. They include reports by consulting engineering firms Northwest Hydraulics (on hydraulics) and Golder Associates (on dykes).

The second phase (2016) will involve options for funding and implementation.

The industry organizations supporting the plan include the BC Agricutlure Council, CN, CP Port Metro Vancouver, and Simon Fraser University.

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