A new report produced by a Senate committee is recommending that the Canadian federal government work with the province of British Columbia to develop a more comprehensive flood relief plan.
The Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry released its findings yesterday following feedback from almost two dozen BC residents who have shared their accounts of the disastrous effects of flooding last November, and of how the provincial government has responded after.
"There's no time for red tape in the immediate aftermath of catastrophic flooding," wrote committee deputy chair Senator Paula Simons.
"The federal government should ensure that its agriculture and disaster relief assistance programs have enough financial and human resources to quickly support people, communities and businesses reeling from natural disasters."
Last November, record rainfall caused the Nooksack River in Washington to overflow, with the water finding its way into Abbotsford's Sumas Prairie. The flooded portion is a former lake that was drained roughly a century ago to serve as farmland.
According to the report, the November flooding affected over 1,000 farms, 2.5 million livestock, and more than 150 square kilometres of land.
One witness, University of British Columbia associate professor Brett Gilley, recommended that the federal government should consider the "politically difficult task of ... buying people out" and moving them away from the Sumas Prairie, which ash been classified as a flood plain. Another witness, hydrotechnical engineer Monica Mannerström, cited a 2015 report which found that 87% of the dikes in BC’s Lower Mainland were "in less-than-fair condition," while another 71% were "expected to fail simply by overtopping" should flooding occur.
Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun explained that municipal governments do not have the money to address these issues through flood mitigation infrastructure, adding that they receive only 8 to 10 cents of every tax dollar collected."
"Characterizing the 'downloading' of infrastructure construction and maintenance costs to municipal governments as a 'monumental mistake,' Henry Braun argued that this downloading 'needs to be addressed through providing municipalities with adequate financial resources," the Senate report said.
The report also noted that provincial and federal assistance provided to BC farmers after the November flood was helpful in "certain instances,” but some individuals had run into “administrative problems” when they tried to apply for funding.
CBC News also said that the Senate’s report recommended that the Canadian government work with the US government to address the flood risk posed by the Nooksack River.