Mother Nature is fighting back and winning

John Dorn

Dec. 14, 2021

First our warming climate caused the winters to be milder, and then the pine beetles were able to survive over the winter, and then the pine forests were overwhelmed by the beetles, and then the province let the foresters harvest the pine trees to salvage the crop, and then the wildfires came and burnt through the debris fuel, and then the atmospheric rivers dropped months’ worth of rain in a few hours, and then there were no trees to hold back the water, and then the creeks and rivers overflowed, and then the town of Merritt was evacuated to Kelowna and Kamloops.

The province manages the forests with what appears to be little input from First Nations and communities.

They seem to take direction from the industry in order to keep employment high. Tough luck for Merritt.

B.C. has downloaded responsibility for dikes to towns.

It is estimated to cost $400 million to improve the Fraser Valley dikes, as required to meet our changing climate. No municipality can afford that amount. If Abbotsford could build the dikes required, would that not just push the problem downstream to Langley? The province needs to take control.

It is the responsibility of the municipality or First Nation to make the local state of emergency announcement. The mayor of Abbotsford chose not to do so, as he did not want to panic all 160,000 citizens, when only those in the valley were affected. There should be a provincial employee with local knowledge making that call. Small-town mayors are just not qualified.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure or in our case compensation. Since we did not spend the $400 million on adequate dikes we have made funding available for those flooded property owners. Each claim can be up to $300,000.

For those farmers in the Fraser Valley, they are able to claim once for their principal residence and once for the business. Assuming an average claim to be $150,000, we would blow through the $400 million we could have used for dikes with just 2666 claims.

The insurance is there to cover a risky property if a disaster might happen, rather than for when a disaster will inevitably happen.

The floods have been categorized as both “unprecedented” and “unpredictable.” Fair enough. For those property owners who have happily lived flood-free for several decades, they need public funding for help.

As a society, we cannot afford to keep bailing homeowners out every few years after flooding or wildfires.

Here in Summerland, council has just approved a 45-unit residential development on the flood plain in Trout Creek, mere metres from the lakeshore.

First, the buyers should be made aware that their homes will be at overland flood risk.

Second, a covenant should be attached to the deed, noting government assistance in case of flooding will be denied. (The same should apply for those who build in rural areas with heightened risk of a wildfire).

With the changing climate, it is not if Trout Creek will flood, but when.

John Dorn is a retired tech entrepreneur who resides in Summerland.