Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Merritt to get new B.C. flood relief money

Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Mission, and Merritt will be on the receiving end of new B.C. funding for relief efforts following catastrophic flooding last fall.

The $53.6 million in provincial funds will be distributed to a total of 10 communities, aimed at helping provide temporary housing to hundreds of people who are still out of their homes.

Merritt, a city in which all residents were ordered out during the devastating November floods, is getting nearly half of the total dollars announced by the province Thursday. The community will receive $24.26 million.

Mayor Linda Brown says more than 700 residents from approximately 400 homes in her city are still displaced and this money will provide about 200 temporary homes.

“The greatest news is that our residents will soon be able to come home. This will give them some sense of peace of mind and a little bit of security, knowing they’re able to move back to some sense of normality,” Brown said, adding she hopes the housing will be in place by the end of summer.

But Brown emphasizes this is not the finish line.

“It’s the beginning. We now have some hope that we will get to that finish line. We still need money for flood plain planning, diking, bridge repair, and a whole lot of other projects.”

Related video: Returning to a flood ravaged ‘dream home’ in Abbotsford

The City of Abbotsford, where flooding decimated farmland and homes in the Sumas Prairie area, will receive $6.85 million. Chilliwack will receive $3.35 million and Mission will get $50,000. An additional $1.63 million will be given to the Fraser Valley Regional District.

A state of emergency was declared on Nov. 17 after flooding forced thousands to flee their homes and five people died after being caught in mudslides. Hundreds of thousands of farm animals also died as a result of the disaster.

Flooding and landslides caused major damage to several B.C. highways and closures brought transportation to and from the Lower Mainland to a halt.

Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun estimated more than 1,200 acres of blueberry fields were flooded, killing the plants. It takes years to cultivate blueberry crops, usually taking about four years to produce a good one.

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Other B.C. communities receiving new provincial flood relief funding include Princeton and Hope, which will receive $11.9 million and $2.5 million, respectively. Kent is receiving $2.36 million.

The Cowichan Valley Regional District is being sent $550,000, while the Thompson-Nicola Regional District will receive $150,000.

The province says the grants will help the local governments with flood recovery costs that are not covered by other assistance programs, carry out small-scale recovery-related capital projects, and restore infrastructure in a way that is more resilient to climate events.

Related video: Farmers rescue cattle from flooding in Abbotsford

According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), November’s catastrophic floods caused more than $515 million worth of insured damage. The IBC called it “the costliest insured event in British Columbia’s history.”

With files from Martin MacMahon and Lasia Kretzel

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