Municipalities prepare for flood, just in case

Inspections of dikes begins, crews watching rising water

Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge have begun preparations for the freshet as melting snow and rain cause rivers across the province to swell.

Crews have already started periodic inspections of dikes along the Fraser, Pitt and Alouette rivers, making sure there are no problems caused by animal burrows, fallen trees and erosion.

“We don’t want to see any sloughing, failures or anything that will present a problem for us should the water continue to rise,” said Pitt Meadows operation superintendent Randy Evans.

With 64 kilometres of dikes and nearly 95 per cent of the community within the floodplain, Pitt Meadows is one of the largest diking jurisdictions in the Lower Mainland.

A cool spring has delayed snow melting at the Fraser headwaters, with snowpack levels in the upper Fraser basin estimated between 110 to 115 per cent above normal levels.

The Fraser River through the Lower Mainland is now rising rapidly and will continue to rise for the next two weeks as snow melts.

The River Forecast Centre predicts the lower Fraser River will reach close to six metres at the Mission gauge station by the weekend, up from 4.2 metres a week ago.

Flooding is unlikely, but both Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge are warning residents to steer clear of the river’s edge.

“Water is starting to rise and it is moving very fast,” said Evans. “Don’t get close to the flowing rivers.

“Also if you see anything out of the ordinary or of a concern [along the dikes], call the municipality and let us know.”

Water levels in the Fraser River are the same as four years ago, when it rose to within 15 centimetres of topping the dikes.

Pitt Meadows has also installed a temporary pump to suck excess water out of the wildlife reserve near Pitt Lake.

Evans said the area has no pump station, so when the river rises, water gets trapped in the marshes and eventually floods the road.

Both municipalities won’t step up dike inspections until the Mission gauge hits the six-metre mark, triggering weekly patrols.