Although there has been good news in the city’s fight against the catastrophic flooding on Sumas Prairie, the community is facing a “monumental task” in the days and months to come, says Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun.
“(Right now) we are singularly focused on the flood event, which we are still in, and the critical repairs that have to be made before the next weather system comes,” he said, speaking Monday afternoon (Nov. 22) at the daily press conference at Matsqui Centennial Auditorium.
“If we look at other floods, people are returning to recovery mode for years – and I think this will be the same.”
Braun commented on the evacuation order that had been rescinded earlier Monday for properties north of Hwy. 1 between Sumas Way and Whatcom Road.
He said “rapid damage assessments” have been made of those properties, indicating whether a home or business is safe to enter or if additional work is required. Each building has a placard on the front door to advise of the assessment results.
“I know people are eager to return to their homes and businesses. However, the top importance is that we ensure they can do so as safely as possible.”
Braun said the floodgates have been able to remain open at Barrowtown Pump Station, allowing water from the Sumas River to flow into the Fraser River.
He said crews continued working through the night with repairs to the Sumas River dikes, building them up below and above water.
The south Sumas dike west of Atkinson Road has two crews working on it 24 hours a day, Braun said.
“With all of these efforts, we saw water levels drop on the Sumas Lake bottom a total of seven inches since the dike breach was sealed yesterday (Sunday).”
Braun said the Canadian military continue to support the flood-mitigation efforts. Troops are helping farmers with feed delivery, walking the dikes in search of weaknesses and cleaning culverts.
He said the city’s structural engineers have assessed all accessible bridges that might have been impacted by the water levels, and geotechnical engineers have inspected more than 88 kilometres of roads and 229 culverts.
“We need water levels to abate to be able to continue much of this work because there’s still a big lake out there,” Braun said.
The next press conference takes place at 2 p.m. Tuesday on the city’s YouTube channel.