Catastrophic flood warning issued for Sumas Prairie as pump system is set to fail

Date: 2021-11-17 07:51:07

Tens of thousands of dairy cows at risk of drowning and hundreds of thousands of chickens

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The Fraser River was predicted to flood in the Sumas Prairie and surrounding areas on Tuesday night, potentially leading to catastrophic damage, significant risk to human life and devastation of livestock.

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The mayor of Abbottford, Henry Brown, made an urgent call at 8 o’clock in the afternoon for all people to evacuate the area immediately. This included hundreds of farmers who were left behind to care for their livestock and birds following an evacuation order earlier because of initial flooding caused by a flooding river just south of the border.

“I know that it is difficult for farmers to quit their jobs. But life is more important to me now than livestock and chickens, “said Brown.

Fraser Valley farmers provide 50 percent of all BC’s eggs, chickens and dairy products. There are 45,000 dairy cows in the valley, and each chicken farm has around 25,000 birds.

The reason for the urgent announcement was the imminent failure of the key Barrowtown pump station – a four-pump station that keeps the Fraser River out of the Sumas Lake canal and protects many square kilometers of major agricultural land.

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Abbottford Fire Rescue Service Chief Daren Lee said sandbags had been placed around the pump station to buy time and that smaller pumps had been flown in to flood the station. All four pumps worked, but they could not stop the rise of water in the canal and once water entered the pump station, he said, the pumps would fail.

If the pumps do fail, an emergency broadcast will be made to residents of Abbotsford and Chilliwack via text message.

Lee said fast water rescue supplies are being sent to the area so they can be used at first light if people are stranded by standing water. Once the pump station fails, the water level is expected to reach around 10 feet (three meters) in the prairie – which could take from two to seven days.

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“With the failure of this key piece of infrastructure, water in the Sumas Prairie will not be able to be pumped out and water from the Fraser River will start entering the already flooded Sumas Prairie area,” the city of Abbotsford wrote in a prepared statement telling people To leave the area.

The event is expected to be catastrophic. The town of Abbotsford has shut down domestic water service to the area.

In the warning of the city to the remaining residents to get out fast, it says that there is a “significant risk to life.”

Brown said he spoke with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and BC Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth Tuesday night and they promised to provide pumps and other equipment and assistance in any way they could.

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In a statement released late Tuesday night, Farnworth echoed Brown’s claim to residents to get to safety immediately.

“If you are in the Sumas Prairie and have not been evacuated, you must do so immediately. Do not stay for livestock or property. Flooding conditions have escalated quickly and put a significant risk to life,” he said in the statement. “The event is expected to be catastrophic. Residents who are unable to evacuate safely are asked to call 911 and report your location immediately.”

Farnworth also said the province is providing Abbottford with all the resources it needs.

“I have also been in contact with Bill Blair, Federal Minister of Emergency Preparedness, to request federal assistance on the incident and the flooding situation in general. This includes Canadian Armed Forces ground and air support,” Farnworth added.

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According to a 2013 report written by Abbottford City staff seeking funding to upgrade the power system at the borough institution (built between 1977 and 1983), if the station fails, it will lead to around $ 500 million in damage and damage. Main transportation and utility. Corridors such as Highway 11, 1, railways and underground gas / oil lines.

“Major flooding in the area would significantly impact food producers and food processing companies, and cause job losses that typically take 5-10 years to recover,” the report stated. There are about 1,400 farms in the Sumas Prairie.

The last time a major flood event occurred in the Fraser River was in May 1948 when 16,000 people were forced out of their homes and 220 square kilometers of land ended up under water. Ten people were drowned.

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In March, the Fraser Basin Council released a report that a major flooding could cost between $ 20 billion and $ 30 billion.

The council warned that the freezing river thick system that protected large parts of the valley was likely to fail.

dcarrigg@postmedia.com

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dcarrigg@postmedia.com


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