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Richmond ready for rising rivers

Don Fennell   May-18-2018

Despite a low risk of flooding, Richmond closely monitors water levels.

Photo by Jaana Björk

While water levels on the Fraser River continue to rise, flooding in Richmond is unlikely. But it’s still wise to be cautious.

“Probably the biggest concern is what damage upstream could do to public infrastructure, for example power lines that may potentially be tied into systems that serve Richmond,” said City of Richmond spokesperson Ted Townsend.



With pleasant weather in the forecast this long weekend, many people may want to be near or on the water. Townsend advises they need to be vigilant as “currents are very fast and there’s also a tremendous amount of debris in the water right now.”

As an island community, Richmond must be prepared to deal with flooding every day. Accordingly, the city’s diking and drainage system offers perhaps the best flood protection in the province.

Its robust diking and drainage network is built to withstand a one-in-500 year flood, well above current projected water levels as a result of this year’s spring freshet and previous record high water levels.

Still, the city is closely monitoring rising water levels and taking precautionary actions to prepare for possible flooding this weekend.

It is constant communication with the province’s River Forecast Centre, provincial emergency management agencies and neighbouring municipalities to conduct daily assessments of the potential flood risk.

“When the first settlers came, they started building dikes and we’ve been developing the dikes ever since,” Townsend said. “Probably the famous high-level years of 1948 and to a lesser degree 1972 helped spur some of the ongoing development. We (always) have to deal with spring freshet, high tides, rising sea levels and weather events and on any given day of the year could be dealing with one or more.”

A number of measures go into constantly improving the dike and drainage network in Richmond. Funding comes from a number of sources, including developers and provincial and federal levels of government. Townsend said the city also recognizes the need to address longterm rising due to climate change.

Richmond’s comprehensive network of dikes is over 49 kilometres long. In addition, it has 39 drainage pump stations. Many of the pump stations have recently been upgraded to increase pumping capacity and provide emergency power. The city also has several electronic river level monitoring devices that provide real time river level and free board information. This information is remotely monitored by staff on a 24/7 basis.

The city’s diking and drainage utility generates $11.6 million annually which is continually being reinvested in improvements to further enhance local flood protection. Since 2014, Richmond has received more than $18 million in funding for the federal and provincial governments to further support its flood protection initiatives. In addition, as new development occurs along the waterfront, developers are required to fund and complete improvements to raise dike levels adjacent to their developments.

In the event of any increased risk for Richmond, notices will be sent out the public via the media, the city’s website and social media channels. Residents are encouraged to register for the city’s emergency notification system, Richmond BC Alert, which provides phone, email, text or fax alerts directly to registrants in the event of any emergency. Visit the city’s website and look for the emergency notification link on the homepage to register. Residents can also follow @RichmondBCAlert on Twitter, which is specifically dedicated for emergency messages.

Richmond residents who would like to follow up-to-date information on current conditions across the province are encouraged to refer to Emergency Management BC.

Social media hashtags to follow are #BCFlood, #2018freshet, #RichmondBC.

Further information about possible flood risks is available on the Emergency Preparedness section of the city’s website and on what to do during a flooding emergency.

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