British Columbia

Abbotsford mayor says work on dikes, flood gates helping to ease flooding

The mayor of Abbotsford says round-the-clock work to ease flooding has improved the flooding situation in the region nearly a week after extreme weather covered farm fields in water, forced evacuations, and killed livestock.

‘There’s a dramatic change already … I can visually see a lot of green fields,’ says Henry Braun

Machinery and crews work to fill a dike in Abbotsford B.C. on Nov. 20, 2021. (City of Abbotsford)

The mayor of Abbotsford says round-the-clock work has improved the flooding situation in the region nearly a week after extreme weather covered farm fields in water, forced evacuations and caused the deaths of livestock.

"Early this morning we received some good news," said Mayor Henry Braun, who at times became emotional at a press conference Saturday afternoon.

He said that just before 2 a.m. PT Saturday, flood gates at a pump station that has struggled to keep up with the influx of water in Sumas Prairie, east of the city, were able to partially reopen.

It has allowed excess water from the Sumas River to flow into the Fraser River. Braun said the development has had a dramatic impact on surrounding farms that have been covered in water for days.

"There's a dramatic change already in certain parts of the prairie," said Braun. "I can visually see a lot of green fields."

Officials say that about half of the 90-metre dike has been filled in as of Nov. 20, 2021. (City of Abbotsford)

Meantime, workers, which include more than 100 military personnel, have also filled in more than half of a 90-metre dike that was breached and allowed water to rise in the 60-square-kilometre eastern section of Sumas Prairie.

Officials in the city had so far inspected 19 bridges, 93 culverts and 63 kilometres of roads for any damage from the flooding and extreme weather.

"This is a good start and every little bit helps," said Braun, who added that the developments were sorely welcomed in the region which has been reeling from the catastrophic flooding.

"I've been living and breathing this for a week," he said.

The floods were triggered by historic rainfall on the weekend. More than 20 daily rainfall records were shattered across the province.

Braun says a total repair of the dike is expected before a new weather system forecasted to bring heavy rain, up to 100 millimetres, begins next week.

"A hundred millimetres [of rain], that's a concern especially with leaking dikes, but we are on it," he said.

Braun said despite the good news of progress against current flooding, water was still flowing into the Abbotsford area from the U.S., where the Nooksak River had burst its banks.

A map of Sumas Prairie showing the location of the Barrowtown Pump Station which pumps water from the low-lying area. The blue arrows indicate the flow of floodwaters into the area from the Nooksak River in Washington. (CBC / The National)

While conditions have improved on the eastern side of Sumas Prairie, Braun said some farms on the western portion had seen water levels rise in the past few days, where there are 2,500 dairy cows.

An evacuation order and boil water order remain in place in parts of the Sumas Prairie area.

Still Braun spent the majority of his press conference focused on the positives, including help from strangers in the form of donations and other support for the community.

"As the mayor I am humbled by the outpouring of support," he said and directed others to the city's website for ways to help people affected in the region by flooding.

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