The City of Abbotsford will begin building a levee Friday morning (Nov. 19) to try to hold back some of the floodwaters that are continuing to move across Sumas Prairie to the northeast.
Mayor Henry Braun said at a press conference Thursday afternoon (Nov. 18) that the structure will be built for a stretch of approximately 2.5 kilometres.
It will be constructed along the freeway on the northwest side of Sumas Prairie near No. 4 Road.
Braun said the levee is necessary because the situation “remains critical.”
He said there have been “a number of breaches” in the dikes and water continuing to flow across the border from the Nooksack River and filling up the former Sumas Lake.
“This lake is expanding and is moving from west to east. At some point we’re going to … cross into Chilliwack because there’s no dike there. We have to stop this water,” he said. “We’re going to construct (the levee) to stop the water from going across the freeway.”
Braun estimated that six to 12 homes could be lost, but, at the time of the press conference at 4 p.m., the property owners hadn’t been notified. He said this was because the decision involving the levee had only been made about an hour earlier.
Braun said some areas that had dry roads yesterday were seeing six inches of water today, and he cautioned residents that the situation will likely get worse.
“This event is not over by any means, and I am concerned about the rain that is coming – another 80 to 100 millimetres on Tuesday. We have to finish this work like yesterday to stop all of this happening as long as we can.”
Braun said the Barrowtown Pump Station isn’t yet able to keep up with the volume of water surging across Sumas Prairie, and the floodgates can’t yet be opened because the Fraser River is still higher than the Sumas River and needs to drop another two feet.
He urged farmers to continue to stay away from the evacuation area.
“I want to implore the farmers (that) just because you saw water drop (in some places) doesn’t mean it’s safe to go in there. The water is rising … and when (the lake) fills up, there’s going to be 15 to 20 feet of water.”
Earlier Thursday, it was announced that 120 Canadian soldiers have been deployed to Abbotsford to aid in flood recovery efforts.
Braun said the city is in discussions to determine where they can best be used, including with the levee work. Numerous contractors will also be involved in the construction.
“It’s for the benefit of the entire community to manage the situation. It’s necessary to be able to have the highway open once again … We need to get that roadway opened and to get that levee addressed as quickly as possible,” he said.