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'We can't wait': B.C. spending $76.6M on pump station to protect Sumas Prairie from future flooding

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Tired of waiting for federal funding, the province is spending $76.6 million to upgrade a critical piece of infrastructure in an effort to mitigate the impact of future floods on the Sumas Prairie.

The money will be used for upgrades to the Barrowtown Pump Station.

In making the announcement Wednesday, Premier David Eby said the province and City of Abbotsford submitted an application for $1.6 billion in funding from Ottawa last June. So far, there has been no response.

“We can’t wait. That process is taking too long. We need to make sure this pump station will be protected for the next atmospheric river event here in the valley,” Eby said.

The upgrades include building a six-metre floodwall, replacing pump motors, increasing overall capacity, upgrading the power supply and replacing sandbags with concrete blocks.

But the latest funding is only part of the solution to prevent a repeat of the devastation caused for farmers and residents of the Fraser Valley when atmospheric rivers swept through in November of 2021.

Thousands of people were forced to flee, crops were destroyed and hundreds of thousands of animals died.

Abbotsford Mayor Ross Siemens said a second pump station is critical and that the city continues to wait for a decision from the federal government on funding.

“Without adding a Sumas River pump station or creating habitat enhancement flood storage area, Semá:th First Nations remains unprotected, as does the west side of Sumas Prairie, the US -anada border crossing, rail crossing and portions of Highway 1,” the mayor said.

“If we don’t get that pump station on the Sumas River, the west side of the lake will flood again,” said local farmer Dave Martens.

“We’re not safe yet. So we’re living on pins and needles,” he said.

During Wednesday’s announcement, officials thanked volunteers who worked tirelessly to stop the Barrowtown Pump Station from being overwhelmed during the flooding of 2021. Their work prevented a much bigger disaster, officials said.

One of those volunteers was Chris Kitt, who said volunteers stepped up to help as they saw the waters rising.

“We knew we had to do something to barricade the weak point so we grabbed an old pool liner and some tarps. We grabbed one of our neighbours' excavators and started packing material against the weak spot,” he explained.

Eby said the new funding will “make sure we aren’t dependant on pool liners to protect the people of this area.”

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