Fraser River view towards Mission from the Matsqui Trail, Abbotsford. Photo: Christina Toth
Here is a look at some of the Fraser Basin Council's past work to to promote flood risk reduction for the protection of communities and work to support watersheds
Investigations in Support of Flood Strategy Development in BC
The goal of the "Investigations in Support of Flood Strategy Development in British Columbia" initiative was to better understand current challenges and opportunities for a wide range of flood management issues in BC.
Between 2019 and 2021, consulting teams carried out 43 reviews of flood-related issues that spanned flood governance, hazard and risk assessment, planning, structural and non-structural mitigation, forecasting, emergency response and recovery, and funding and resources.
The Fraser Basin Council (FBC) managed and coordinated the projects as well as the overall initiative.The initiative was supported by funding from the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.
The Summary Report (July, 2021), prepared by FBC, summarizes the context and key findings and recommendations from the 11 projects within this initiative
These are the project reports prepared by consulting teams*.
*Note: The consulting team reports are presented to help inform the work of the Province and other governments with flood-related responsibilities. The content and views of the consultants do not necessarily represent the views of the Fraser Basin Council.
Assessment of Orphan Dikes in BC
In BC there are 101 orphan dikes and erosion protection works, which total more than 85 km in length. These works were either constructed or funded by the Province of British Columbia over the past 50 years to respond to emergency flooding situations or were built by others and later abandoned. These dikes generally lack adequate planning and engineering design, given the emergency conditions under which most were constructed. They are not typically maintained or inspected by a diking authority.
The Fraser Basin Council managed a risk assessment of these orphan dikes for the Province of BC and provided the results of this work (conducted by Kerr Wood Leidal Associates Ltd.) in Spring 2021. The results were communicated to local governments in the communities where the orphan dikes are located. The results showed the condition of the structures to better prepare local governments to update their local emergency plans and address risks associated with these works, which might include a local government assuming the role of diking authority, if warranted.
The summary report is available on the Province of British Columbia website.
Seismic Design Guidelines
The Province of BC introduced Seismic Design Guidelines for Dikes in 2011 (updated in 2014). The aim was to reduce the vulnerability of high-consequence dikes from earthquake damage. Local authorities and design professionals in the Lower Mainland have found the standards are technically challenging to implement in many locations and/or cost-prohibitive.
The Fraser Basin Council supported two projects:
BC Storm Surge Forecast Model
The BC Storm Surge Forecast Model provides five-day forecasts of coastal flood conditions in the Georgia Strait. The Fraser Basin Council coordinated funding, contract management and cost-sharing arrangements with coastal communities for the the Province of BC for storm seasons (October through March) from 2016-2017 through 2021-2022. Visit the StormSurge BC website.
The Province of BC has said that the site will run just until 2022-2023 after which time Environment and Climate Change Canada will assume storm surge public notifications for all coastal communities in Canada.
Canadian Heritage Rivers in BC
Canadian Heritage Rivers System – The Fraser River 10-Year Monitoring Report
The Fraser River (Stó:lō) was designated as a Canadian Heritage River in 1998 for its outstanding natural, cultural and recreational values, and for its importance to British Columbia and to Canada. Of the 40 nationally designated heritage rivers, three are in BC — the Fraser, Cowichan (2003) and Kicking Horse (1990).
FBC supported the initial designation of the Fraser River as both a Canadian Heritage River and BC Heritage River and continues to collaborate with the Canadian Heritage Rivers Board and BC Parks on related projects, including CHRS monitoring reports. The most recent 10-year monitoring report for the Fraser River (2009-2020) was developed for BC Parks by the Fraser Basin Council through the work of FBC’s Assistant Regional Manager, Christina Toth.
The report confirms that the Fraser River’s heritage values endure and that the Fraser should remain a river designated under the Canadian Heritage Rivers System.
The report describes some of the present and future challenges facing the Fraser. These include, for example, harmful impacts from climate change and human activities (agriculture, urban development, resource industry activities) on salmon, habitat and river system health. It also sets out examples of good work undertaken to safeguard the natural, cultural and recreational values of the river and recommendations to further protect this invaluable waterway and its inhabitants.
Visit the Canadian Heritage Rivers System site to read The Fraser: A Canadian Heritage River (10-Year Monitoring Report 2009-2020).
Here is a summary of key work supported by FBC:
Visit the Canadian Heritage Rivers System.
Green Stormwater Infrastructure
FBC's 2016 report Showcasing Successful Green Stormwater Infrastructure – Lessons from Implementation profiles green stormwater infrastructure projects in Metro Vancouver and Victoria across three urban land use types:
Traditional stormwater management relies on networks of curbs, gutters and pipes to divert water from impervious surfaces and away from urban areas as quickly as possible, often directly into nearby watercourses. Although this traditional pipe-and-convey approach to stormwater management protects urban property from surface flooding during rainstorms, it leads to a range of unintended yet significant impacts to watercourses, including water pollution, streambank erosion and loss of fish habitat.
Green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) is an alternative approach, which is decentralized infrastructure to capture, detain and infiltrate rainwater as close as possible to where it falls. GSI includes such features as bioswales, rain gardens, green roofs, pervious paving and infiltration trenches. By capturing and infiltrating rainfall, GSI slows and reduces stormwater entering the traditional piped system while also removing pollutants. GSI has been shown to improve water quality and stream health in urban watercourses.
GSI has also been identified as a method of increasing the resilience of urban communities to climate change. BC’s South Coast is expected to see an increase in the frequency and intensity of winter storms. Such a trend increases in the risk of flooding from overwhelmed, aging urban drainage systems and stream channels. If GSI is implemented across the urban watershed, it can help reduce the burden on receiving streams and aging storm sewer systems – thereby reducing the risk of flooding and increasing the resilience of communities to the impacts of a changing climate. FBC thanks project funders: Environment Canada's Science Horizons Internship Program, Sitka Foundation, Keurig Canada and Salmon-Safe BC.
FBC completed a three-year (2013-2016) project in collaboration with the BC Wildlife Federation aimed at watershed conservation and sustainability. The goal was to educate people in British Columbia on the importance of watershed sustainability and protecting BC’s diverse and unique aquatic resources. Workshops, discussion papers (2014) and other resources were developed and shared on:
Salmon as a BC Symbol
In the spring of 2013 the BC Legislature designated seven species of Pacific salmon — Chinook, Coho, Chum, Sockeye and Pink as well as Steelhead and Cutthroat Trout — as an official emblem for British Columbia.
The Fraser Basin Council, Pacific Salmon Foundation and BC Conservation Foundation applauded the move and the fact that all MLAs supported this amendment to the Provincial Symbols and Honours Act. The three organizations had proposed the designation in 2011 as a way to emphasize the social, economic and environmental importance of wild Pacific salmon and healthy watersheds.
Our joint report Do We Make it Official? Recognizing Pacific Salmon as a BC Emblem pointed to a high level of public support, as reflected in a BC-wide public opinion survey by Mustel Group in 2010. The survey showed 93% of British Columbians named Pacific salmon as BC’s most iconic fish, and 85% supported a proposal to designate all seven species as a provincial emblem. Pacific Salmon is now recognized alongside BC's other emblems: the Pacific Dogwood, Steller’s Jay, Kermode (Spirit) Bear, Western Red Cedar, Jade and BC Tartan.
Pacific Fisheries Monitoring and Compliance Panel
The Fraser Basin Council provided administrative support for several years to the Pacific Fisheries Monitoring and Compliance Panel, which was created in 2009 to promote fairer and more effective policies and practices for catch reporting, monitoring and compliance in BC’s salmon fisheries.
The Panel has examined ways to improve catch reporting, monitoring and compliance, including issues of access, certification, traceability and in-season adjustments. The Panel prepared a report to advocate an improved approach to monitoring and compliance: Charting our Course: Fishery Monitoring in the Pacific Region. Fisheries and Oceans Canada also prepared a discussion paper, and called for comment in 2011: Strategic Framework for Fishery Monitoring and Catch Reporting in the Pacific Fisheries.
Fraser Salmon and Watersheds
Nothing epitomizes the spirit of British Columbia like wild Pacific Salmon. Yet managing wild salmon and watersheds sustainably is a daunting challenge. Many salmon stocks are at risk, or in decline from such threats as habitat loss, overfishing and climate change impacts.
The Fraser Salmon and Watersheds Program (FSWP) was a multi-year initiative (2006-2012), co-managed by the Pacific Salmon Foundation (PSF) and Fraser Basin Council to encourage change. FSWP brought together British Columbians from different regions, sectors and areas of interest to improve the health and sustainability of wild Pacific salmon populations and the watersheds of the Fraser Basin.
Thanks to the BC Living Rivers Trust Fund, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and other funders, FSWP provided $13.6 million in funding for 300 projects across the Basin, in four focus areas:
FSWP supported networking, education and collaboration on tough issues. Successes involved many leaders, including those in First Nations communities, and other people involved in fisheries management, research, stewardship and community work. Perhaps the greatest success of the six years was in connecting people and bridging information gaps. FSWP helped people pool information and resources, learn from each other, and build bridges to cooperate more effectively.
Rethinking our Water Ways
Rethinking our Water Ways was a 2011 initiative of the Fraser Basin Council to highlight the challenges of managing BC’s watersheds and water resources sustainably, particularly in the face of climate change and increasing demands for water. Five regional workshops on water and watershed planning were hosted by FBC in Prince George, 100 Mile House, Salmon Arm, Chilliwack and New Westminster, followed by presentations in other BC communities. Rethinking Water also offered communities a dedicated website and a watershed planning guide called Rethinking our Water Ways.
In 2011-2012 FBC developed a framework of indicators for the health of watersheds and water resources, with funding from Environment Canada. The framework was based on a review of indicators, data availability and information priorities of local and regional organizations.
Fraser River Debris Trap
The Fraser River debris trap, located near Agassiz in the Fraser Valley, is a uniquely designed set of floating booms that intercepts large volumes of natural wood debris (45-55,000 cubic metres on average) during spring high water. Without the trap, woody debris would move into the lower reaches of the river and Strait of Georgia, posing a risk to human safety, navigation and foreshore structures.
A 2006 study commissioned by FBC shows that the trap offered widespread public benefits, avoiding at least $8 million in costs of clean-up and repairs and paying for itself 12 times over. FBC was secretariat for the Fraser River Debris Trap Operating Committee for 12 years and worked to secure multi-party funding agreements to operate the facility. The future of the trap was secured when the Province of BC and Port Metro Vancouver stepped up a long-term funding and management agreement, beginning in April 2011. The debris trap continues to provide value by helping to safeguard the Lower Fraser from large amounts of woody debris during spring freshet each year.