By Cindy Filipenko
This year’s record snowfall has the Fraser Valley on flood alert. The concern is so great that troops from Alberta have been deployed to the armed forces base in Aldergrove in anticipation. However, officials in Pemberton are not worried.
Lori Pilon, chief administrative officer for the Village of Pemberton, thinks experience has put the community in a good position.
“I think we’re well prepared,” said Pilon. “Because we’ve flooded in the past we’re incredibly ready.”
She pointed out that the community has developed innovative techniques for flood management.
“Here they use concrete trucks to fill sandbags instead of shovels,” she said.
Mayor Jordan Sturdy, who also works as a ski patroller, thinks the primary fallout from this year’s substantial snow pack will be a longer freshet (the melting of the snowpack and subsequent run off into rivers and streams).
“I don’t have a crystal ball, but I think it’s going to be fine,” said the mayor. “But anytime we get 100 mm of rain in a 24 hour period we’re screwed.”
Deluges exceeding 100 mm a day were one of the key factors in the flood of October 2003, an event so extreme it was considered to be a “200-year flood.”
“When I left the mountain in early April we had a healthy snow pack,” said Mayor Sturdy. “We’re in a very small drainage basin here. What we’ll have is a long and sustained freshet.”
The mayor pointed out that the reason the Fraser Valley was at risk is that the valley receives almost 2/3 of the province’s run-off.
“It’s a huge amount of water going to one place,” he says.
Some of that water will come from Pemberton as the region’s freshet drains into Lillooet Lake, which feeds into Harrison Lake which eventually enters the Fraser River at Aggasiz.
The VOP’s Emergency Preparedness Coordinator, Russell Mack, concurred with Pilon and Mayor Sturdy.
“All the rivers are pretty much dead empty,” said Mack. “And with the weather cooling off we’re pretty safe. That’s what you want to melt the snowpack. A week of good weather — a week of cooler weather.”
Both the mayor and Mack noted that the valley is more prone to flooding in the fall.
While flooding is not an imminent concern in the valley, improvements to the current dyking system continue thanks to a provincial fund. The dyking district recently received $175,000 to replaced aging culverts, the failure of which could result in major flooding.