Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows will be upgrading their diking systems as a result of the recent Fraser River flood level report released by the province.
Prepared by the forests ministry’s flood safety section and Northwest Hydraulic Consultants, the report states 15 dikes from Mission to Hope were reviewed and recalculated to reflect the changes to the river’s channel occurring because of sedimentation, the effect of bridges, erosion and other factors.
By the end of this century, the report stated, a 50-year flood could be similar in magnitude to floods that used to only occur every 200 to 500 years. Many of the Fraser Valley dikes were first built in the 1970s and 1980s to design standards that have since been revised.
In Pitt Meadows, city operations superintendent Randy Evans admits he is concerned with the report findings as the community’s diking system still needs widespread improvement.
“There’s still 90 per cent of (diking system) inventory that needs to be upgraded to the current model for flood protection elevation standards,” he explains.
Evans is referring to the upgrade work that took place in Pitt Meadows at the same time as Maple Ridge. Although the city was grateful for the funding it did receive at the time, he explains it only was enough to elevate approximately 10 per cent of the city’s diking system.
He recalls the flooding concerns of 2012, four years after he joined the Pitt Meadows public works department.
“When you’re watching the water come up, come up and come up, you definitely get concerned.”
Evans maintains it will take all of the Fraser River municipalities affected by future floods, that are expected to be more frequent due to sea level rise and climate change, working together to get higher levels of government to fund the needed upgrades.
“The City of Pitt Meadows does not have the money needed for these upgrades. None of the municipalities do.”
The last time diking upgrades for the City of Pitt Meadows’ standard dikes were reviewed, the cost was estimated to be $30 million.
The estimate does not include the cost for agricultural diking upgrades, adds Evans.
Should a flooding emergency occur, Evans says the city is prepared for what needs to happen.
“Our plans are in place to deal with it and in most cases, that will mean evacuation.”
Maple Ridge’s general manager of public works Frank Quinn says the Albion dike also needs to be elevated to meet current requirements. In 2007, it was raised to an approximate six- metre elevation when the threat of a Fraser River flood was imminent. But that does not meet the standards outlined in the report.
“We’re in the same boat as most municipalities,” says Quinn.
Quinn adds he is optimistic the federal and provincial governments will support the needed upgrades as they were presented at the Fraser Basin Council’s unveiling of their Lower Mainland Flood Management Strategy and indicated their commitment at that time. He however cautions now the real work begins:
“At the end of the day, there’s a lot of work to be done.”
Work is to begin later this year to better identify areas that are most vulnerable to flooding.