Fraser Valley flood recovery forum focused on ‘breaking the silos’ – Coast Mountain News

A group of government and private sector representatives from the Fraser Valley and Lower Mainland have come together in an unprecedented way to break down the silos between them as the region rebuilds after last fall’s devastating floods.

The group, which has yet to be named, has planned a flood recovery forum and invited everyone involved in decision-making at the municipal, regional, provincial and federal levels. They called it the Build Back Better, Together Forum.

They booked a conference room at the Clarion Hotel in Abbotsford, and then they held their breath.

They didn’t know who would respond or what the buy-in would be. Unlike other strategic government meetings, there was no prior framework to build on; there was no requirement under anyone’s job title to attend. To top it off, Thursday was a warm and sunny day throughout the valley.

But the meeting room at the Clarion Hotel on Thursday July 14 was packed with about 100 registrants, and another 40 joined online. After a full day of brainstorming and sharing ideas among planners, elected officials, engineers, water experts, and more, organizers told media they were blown away by the turnout.

Every municipality was represented from the Sea Salish to Yale.

Their main goal is to create a regional action plan that will see all municipalities and First Nations working together instead of the usual practice of competing for federal funding. This dream plan, they said, will work for everyone along the Fraser River floodplain.

That’s idealistic, admitted forum co-chair Jason Lum, chair of the Fraser Valley Regional District and Chilliwack city councilor.

But in the end, it would be the best economically and ecologically.

Billions of dollars in stimulus funds are flowing through the federal government, but not everything is reaching municipalities. And the infrastructure they need to replace is decades old. And when the federal government does fund reconstruction, he explained, it’s at pre-flood levels.

Floods that have been seen in 2021, not to mention heat domes and fires, are going to be more frequent due to climate change, he said.

But it wasn’t just the infrastructure that was at the center of the discussion. And it wasn’t necessarily money either.

It was actually salmon, one of this province’s most valuable resources.

“What tends to be good for salmon tends to be good for everyone,” said Aaron Hill, executive director of the Watershed Salmon Society. He is one of the six main leaders of the group, along with Lum.

The other co-chair was Tyrone McNeil, who is also chair of the First Nations Emergency Planning Secretariat and chair of the Sto:lo Nation. Tamsin Lyle, Principal Engineer of Ebbwater Consulting, Deborah Carlson of West Coast Environmental and Dave Zender of Farmland Advantage round out the group leaders.

They say they want to “find common ground around high-level principles to build back better, together”.

Their forum was supported by Emergency Management BC, Indigenous Services Canada and Public Safety Canada. And the principles they use, for the forum and all decision-making, are based on the United Nations Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction that both Canada and British Columbia are signatories to. Above all, it seeks to uphold the British Columbia Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, also known as DRIPA.

“We have seen firsthand how conventional approaches have failed to ensure public safety, and note that climate change and current land use practices will only increase risks in the future,” their authors say. forum agenda notes. “We came together in the wake of the November 2021 floods, but we’ve long wanted to see British Columbia move towards a holistic, collaborative approach to flood management that benefits people and other species, like salmon. .

“The BBBT forum aims to break down silos at all levels of government and find common ground from which to build resilient communities and healthy ecosystems in floodplains.”

One of the keynote speakers was Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. The next day, his office announced $81.8 million in funding under the Green Infrastructure Adaptation, Resilience and Disaster Mitigation (ARDM) program.

In a news release, the province said eligible projects include installing flood protection works, upgrading or modernizing existing infrastructure, such as levees, flood walls, pumping stations, dykes, bulkheads, jetties and dams, flood risk reduction, opening of buried waterways, restoration of wetlands and restoration of natural buffer zones to protect the coastline through wetlands.

But at the forum, they chose not to focus so much on the projects, but just to come together to discuss what will work best for everyone, because everyone is connected to the same river.

There is no set schedule for the next meeting. They don’t want to overwhelm everyone involved with a busy schedule, McNeil said. But he was encouraged by the sharing of information that took place and the learning that occurred.

In his closing remarks to the forum, he said he would look to attendees for ideas on next steps.

And he left them with a parting reminder that it’s better to spend the money that comes on resilience for the future rather than always being in post-disaster recovery.

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BC Floods 2021Emergency PreparednessGovernment

Tamsin Lyle of Ebbwater Consulting speaks to the media following the flood recovery forum in Abbotsford on July 14. (Jessica Peters/Abbotsford News)

Principal Engineer Tamsin Lyle of Ebbwater Consulting speaks to the media following the flood recovery forum in Abbotsford on July 14.  (Jessica Peters/Abbotsford News)

Principal Engineer Tamsin Lyle of Ebbwater Consulting speaks to the media following the flood recovery forum in Abbotsford on July 14. (Jessica Peters/Abbotsford News)

Melvin B. Baillie