Bill Wild speaks out for need to protect against future flooding. (News files)

Bill Wild speaks out for need to protect against future flooding. (News files)

ALONG THE FRASER: Pitt Meadows man lobbies for better flood protections

Atmospheric rivers and subsequent flooding bring local pump station issues to surface, again

by Jack Emberly/Special to The News

Pitt Meadows resident Bill Wild wants the city to upgrade its old dikes and irrigation pumps to be ready for the next atmospheric rivers.

Standing beside Kennedy pump station (circa 1982) on the Pitt River, Wild points to the vertical wooden weed screen (long slats of two-by-fours) erected across the channel.

RELATED: Pitt Meadows resident wants city to pull weeds from Katzie Slough

The boards – mostly about one and a half inches apart – trap invasive plants, woody debris, and garbage before it reaches the pump station.

In early December, the screen was thickly matted and plugged with weeds. It’s a section that Pitt Meadow’s operations manager Cameron Reimer says was recently cleaned out.

“For years,” said Wild, “I’ve told the city weed blockage like this would happen because the slats weren’t wide enough to let water through to the pump quickly enough.”

But, said Reimer, “Katzie Slough was cleaned in November this year. Invasive plant species are removed throughout the year.”

Wild doesn’t think the effort is adequate.

“At times, when water builds up in my backyard, (he lives nearby) I’ve come down here with my own long handled fork and pulled weeds out.”

Residents should refrain from this type of work, though, said Reimer, asking instead that people contact the municipality instead.

“They come when I call them,” said Wild, “but they only reach half way down to get stuff off,” he added.

READ MORE: Torrential rains cause road closures in Pitt Meadows

Wild says “outdated” weed screen technology should be updated.

Cameron concurs.

“Kennedy pump station will undergo an upgrade in the 2023. An automated screen system has been identified as part of the project.”

Wild, however, says work should be done before the next heavy rainfalls, which could arrive at any time.

“Katzie Slough is plugged with weeds that occupy space needed for water. We need to increase the capacity of the slough to hold more water.”

In the past few years, canoists have joined Watershed Watch Salmon Society to kayak the slough from Kennedy only to face weed mats they’ve had to poll their way through.

Further up the seven-kilometre channel – out of public view – it’s even worse.

In December, I watched birds walk on top of them without sinking.

Invasive weeds grow rapidly in slow, polluted waters because of the lack of oxygen and the abundance of weed loving fertilizers.

Plant matter that isn’t removed or flushed through Katzie Slouh decays, adding to the bottom sludge that further reduces the space for water. Much more sustained effort is needed right now to clean Katzie Slough throughout the system.

But weeds aren’t the only problem for flood control in Pitt Meadows.

Wild says the dike slopes down from Kennedy pump to nearby Ford Landing.

“Logging trucks used to cross the road here. They’ve created a depression. This is where water would flow through. I’ve been complaining to city council about this for years,” said Wild.

Cameron insists levels here aren’t problematic.

“Although it may appear as a low spot, it is simply surrounded by higher areas, and is not truly a low spot. For clarity,” he adds, the city completed a detailed flood mitigation plan in 2020.

Areas of dike improvement have been prioritized and the city continues to seek funding opportunities, which will cost over $121 million to raise/ widen the dikes.

Recently, the federal government promised more money for flood control.

After making videos of Bill Wild at Kennedy and Ford Landing, I visited a resident along Baynes Road whose home was flooded during the big rains in November and December.

The ditches were full and water didn’t seem to be moving to nearby Baynes Pump on the Fraser.

“Work is ongoing, which will transition existing pumps at Baynes to new higher capacity pumps that will improve efficiencies overall,” said Reimer. “Back-up generators will also be installed to ensure resiliency in the event of a power outage.”

Regarding federal or provincial money for dikes and pump upgrading, Reimer said that “at this time it’s unknown what new grant opportunities may be available.”

In the meantime, Wild will be keeping a close watch on the water level in his backyard. He still has his long-handled weed fork.

RELATED: Jack Emberly narrates a made-in-B.C. Christmas story

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Jack Emberly is a retired teacher, local author and environmentalist

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B.C. Floods 2021BC FloodEnvironmentPitt Meadows