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FVRD Chair Vents Frustration With Province Re Financial Assistance with Critical Valley Infrastructure

Chilliwack – In a media release on Tuesday, the Chair of the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD), Jason Lum, is calling for urgent assistance for his region, as delays in provincial response continue while roads, water systems, diking
infrastructure, sewer systems, and bridges within the Regional District continue to wash away or suffer catastrophic damage due to the ongoing flooding throughout the region.

“We are issuing an urgent plea for immediate help to the Provincial and Federal governments,” says FVRD Chair
Jason Lum. “We have a number of pieces of critical infrastructure, including the Wilson Road Dyke, that are on
the brink of failure, and need help today – not tomorrow or in the coming days or weeks.”

“Under the current provincial structure, we have to apply for funding and assistance on a case-by-case basis for
things as basic as an excavator and quite frankly the responses are coming too little too late.”

Lum cites a number of examples of where urgent requests by the FVRD Emergency Operations Centre have
gone unanswered for days, including an urgent request for $1.5 million in funding to shore up Othello Road
near Hope. In this case, a request went to Emergency Management British Columbia on November 24th and
our staff continued to follow up, but their urgent pleas went unanswered until five days later. “We finally
received verbal approval to save Othello Road late last night, but by then the road was gone, so were the
houses. As of today, we have several homes still teetering on the edge of the wash out, at risk of being
swallowed by the Coquihalla River.”

“During an emergency we need our partners in government to react quickly, and when a response comes not
after the fact, it’s clear the system of approvals is broken, and is failing us and the residents of our elected
areas,” concluded Lum.

“To have a request for $30,000 to compensate those incredible volunteers for the round-the-clock work they
are doing shows a complete lack of understanding for our situation and community. It’s an insult to those
volunteers who are out risking their lives for their neighbour. This needs to be resolved immediately.

NOTE: The Fraser Valley Regional District is responsible for 14,000 square kilometers of area that stretches from
Abbotsford to Boston Bar and includes six municipalities and eight electoral districts. In an emergency situation
the FVRD is responsible for emergency response in the eight electoral districts. Within those areas are dozens
of pieces of critical infrastructure including 12 water systems, 3 sewer systems and numerous diking systems.

Lum released a second statement on Tuesday night:

Earlier today, I raised serious concerns about approvals and response to what is an urgent situation in our Regional District. The Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General subsequently issued a statement that regional governments are enpowered to protect their communities without waiting for provincial approvals.

We appreciate Minister Farnworth’s statement, but respectfully point out that requirements under the Local Government Act restrict regional district spending to service areas. Regional districts don’t have discretionary spending accounts for emergency situations with no service area. 

Today, two critical areas were cited. For the works on Othello Road in Electoral Area B, there is no service area. The FVRD has no funding available to address those challenges, even if it wished to exercise its authority under emergency legislation. Therefore, it is up to the Province to provide funding so that FVRD can action a response. In the case of the Wilson Road Dyke in Electoral Area E, funding for the emergency works were denied by the Province. There are homes still at imminent risk. Proceeding with work without provincial authorization with the risk of having expenses turned down would add insult to injury to people who have already lost their homes and would later have to be taxed for the repair bill. 

Shortly after our press conference, we received a phone call from Ministry staff during which we shared the challenges that are unique to regional districts and offered our solutions. 

Our goal is and always has been to get timely support to our residents who are in desperate need right now. We call on the Province to trust that the local authority understands the urgency of this situation and will continue to manage the emergency in a responsible manner.

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