According to Transport Minister Rob Fleming, the BC government is aiming to have the flood-affected portion of Highway 1 through the Fraser Valley reopen “at some point” on Thursday, according to Transport Minister Rob Fleming.
The minister said teams had been working hard to clear debris on the busy highway, which was hit by floods and landslides as an atmospheric river provided a month’s worth of rain to the country. Lower Mainland in less than 48 hours.
“We are pleased to announce that several important temporary repairs are now complete and water levels continue to recede,” Fleming said Wednesday.
“We know that people in this area need to travel around – this will provide significant relief.”
The reopening will affect the section of Highway 1 between Abbotsford and Chilliwack, but other sections will remain closed or subject to essential travel restrictions.
Fleming also addressed the province’s decision to restrict Highway 7 to essential trips between Mission and Hope on Tuesday night, acknowledging its impact on people living in the area.
The minister said the restriction was necessary because trucks transporting essential goods were “hopefully congested” on the highways.
“This is not a decision to be taken lightly, but we need to clear that corridor so that cargo can start moving,” he said.
Mr Fleming added that the Highway 7 restriction would be in place until the government could assess the impact of the reopening of Highway 1 and the subsequent storms heading for the Lower Mainland this week.
Essential travel can refer to everything from emergency response, to moving livestock, to exercising Aboriginal treaty rights, and some routes have specific rules governing what’s allowed.
Meanwhile, the race is on to protect Abbotsford from further flooding and ensure that the Sumas Pasture continues to drain.
The mayor of Abbotsford said repairs to the Sumas River dyke were about 90 per cent complete as of Wednesday afternoon, with a meter of height expected to be added before rain begins on Thursday.
A new precipitation warning has been issued for the Fraser Valley with two other atmospheric rivers in the forecast.
“We’re as prepared as we can be,” Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said when asked about the upcoming storms during a news conference on Wednesday.
“The rain is coming, I think we can handle it on Thursday, Friday, the next one is by the end of the week,” he said. “It’s the third (hurricane) that I’m more concerned about, but we don’t have enough data yet. There’s still a way, but if that rain comes, I think we can still handle it.”
The city, with the help of the army, worked for 10 days to rebuild the dikes.
There are four main areas of concern, but they represent less than one percent of the entire mining system.
“All the repair and reinforcement work on the dikes to date has been done to ensure we have the best possible protection if the Nooksack River overflows and the water comes back in,” said Mr. Braun. from Washington state,” Braun said Tuesday.
The evacuation order for the Zurich Drive area has now been lifted, but the advice on boiling water for the Sumas Prairie area has been replaced with a “do not use water” notice.
The city said the notice was “issued due to the continued occurrence of major uncontrollable water violations that could allow surface water to enter the drinking water system.” The city says it will be implemented in a few days and that people in the area should only use the water to flush toilets.
Braun explains that the main water holes are in the eastern part of Sumas Prairie, most of which is still under a significant amount of floodwater. That means the city can’t assess damage to water sources – or other infrastructure in the area – until the water recedes.
As of Wednesday, floodwaters in the area were still more than two meters deep in some places, the mayor said.
“The longer the water stays there, the more damage it does from soil saturation,” says Braun.
With files from CTV News Vancouver’s Regan Hasegawa