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Abbotsford changes plans, work to patch 100-metre breach in dike

It's unknown to what degree the dike has been weakened.

The City of Abbotsford has changed course and will no longer be building a new levee that would have seen 22 homes further impacted by flood waters.

Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun announced Friday afternoon that with changing conditions, their plans have changed, and they're now working to fix a 100-metre break in the existing dike instead.

“The levee option is no longer being considered, and will not be built,” Braun said.

“The water has equalized on both sides, so we don't have water pouring into the bowl, so when we learned this new information, we had some options that we didn't have before.”

Had the city gone ahead with new levee construction, 22 properties would have ended up on the wrong side of the levee.

“They're already impacted by the water, and they would have been impacted for a longer period of time had we gone ahead with the levee construction,” Braun said.

Now, crews are working non-stop to patch a 100-metre hole in the existing dike, before significant rainfall is expected to return to the city next Tuesday.

“I have instructed our city manager that I want to see that dike closed before the next rain event, which is scheduled to arrive I think Tuesday morning or Monday night,” Braun said, adding he is confident the breach will be closed in time.

“The consulting engineers that are working with us, our own engineers, and the contractors have been poring over this plan.”

As of Friday, 64 Armed Forces soldiers are on the ground in Abbotsford, with some walking the dike looking for more weaknesses. Braun said some have been found already.

"That dike has been weakened. To what degree, we don't know that," Braun said.

The city's flood gates, where the dike channels the water to, remain closed, as they can't reopen until the level of the Fraser river falls a foot below the level of the Sumas River. Braun said he had hoped the level of the Fraser would have fallen the required two feet overnight, but it only dropped six inches.

“The minute that happens, we're opening them up, which will really contribute to letting a lot of that water out, seven times more than the pump system that we have there,” Braun said.

There remains 640 people evacuated from the Sumas Prairie area, and 60 of the evacuees are expected to stay at the Tradex Centre overnight.