cover story

Protection deemed


Report warns that climate change will increase both themagnitude and frequency of large floods in the Fraser Valley.

By Judie Steeves H

eavy winter snow and a wet spring are red flags to warn landowners there’s a potential danger of flooding ahead, and as climate change brings more intensive weather events, there is even more likelihood of sudden floods.

While this year the annual melt was slow to occur because of a cool, late spring, whenever a heavy snowpack is combined with a burst of warm weather, it’s time to be on the alert. If the weather is rainy at the same time, that alert warning shoots up to high.

A report on freshet flooding and Fraser Valley agriculture produced by the Climate Action Initiative of the B.C. agriculture ministry and Fraser Valley Regional District, completed early this year, warns that climate change will increase both the magnitude and frequency of large floods on the Fraser River and they are expected to occur earlier in spring.

That risk is further complicated by the forecast that sea levels will rise in the coming decades, impacting properties as far upstream as 15 km beyond Mission, potentially

6 British Columbia Berry Grower • Summer 2017

affecting flood levels in Matsqui Prairie and parts of Nicomen Island.

In the worst-case scenario of a one-in-500-year flood, the economic impact could be $1.1 billion on Fraser Valley Regional District communities, notes the report. In addition, there would be significant non-agriculture losses. The report concluded that the total economic impact of agriculture in the FVRD is more than $3 billion, and 18,000 full-time jobs, and 40 per cent of lands within the Agricultural Land Reserve are vulnerable to flooding. The valley is home to 39 per cent of the province’s blueberry production (by hectare) and 81 per cent of raspberry production.

Fraser Valley dykes don’t currently meet provincial standards, the report says, and climate change impacts are likely to increase flood hazards.

Despite a number of broad, regional agricultural sector plus farm-level flood mitigation measures being in place, they don’t provide adequate protection, states the report. It advises that a number of measures to increase flood resiliency in the valley need to be introduced over time. Those include:

• Opportunities for multi-partner upgrades to critical dikes, including erosion protection • Support of dike patrol measures

• Maintenance and updating of forecasting models • Updating of mapping and monitoring. On a sector level, the industry could: • Coordinate workshops on future flood risks • Identify trigger levels for relocations

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