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REACTION – OPINION – UBC Proposal to Return Sumas Prairie to Original Lake, Causing A Social Media Stir (VIDEO)

Sumas Prairie/Abbotsford – (with files from UBC/Lou Bosshart) A controversial UBC study is out, and released around the same time as the recent federal decision to turn down Abbotsford, Merritt and Princeton for critical flood infrastructure funding through the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund (DMAF).

A new proposal has emerged in response to the November 2021 floods that swept Sumas Prairie in the Fraser Valley, causing mass evacuations and millions in damages.

A number of farmers who lost cattle, poultry, farm land, equipment and livelihood have taken to social media in disbelief.

NOTE: Local historian Chad Reimer released his book in 2018, Before We Lost the Lake: A Natural and Human History of Sumas Valley, which received an honourable mention in the BC Historical Federation’s Historical Writing Awards. It’s well worth the read (FVN’s Don Lehn)

The UBC report notes: Instead of rebuilding the dykes to manage water flows and prevent future floods, scientists at UBC, along with members of the Sumas First Nation and other research partners, suggest an alternative: let Sumas Lake, which was drained in the early 1920s and converted into the farmland known as Sumas Prairie, return to its natural state. This can be done by buying out properties on the lakebed – a solution that is projected to cost around $1 billion, less than half of the estimated $2.4 billion cost of repairing the dykes and installing a new pump station. “Dyke rehabilitation programs tend to assume that future waterflows will be predictable, however climate projections show that flooding events are likely to increase in the future – and the water needs somewhere to go,” says study author Riley Finn, a researcher at the Martin Conservation Decisions Lab at UBC in a paper published in Frontiers of Conservation Science.

Political response has been quick.

BC United is committed to standing with our farming community in Abbotsford by strongly opposing the BC Consesrvative plan to flood Sumas Lake. BC Conservative Party President, Aisha Estey confirmed the BC Conservative plan to re-flood the Sumas Lake in an interview with CBC’s Stephen Quinn on June 3, 2024. 

Flooding the Sumas Lake would require the displacement of countless multi-generational family farms, loss of B.C.’s prime agricultural lands, and a significant loss of dairy, poultry and egg production for British Columbia. In fact, 50 per cent of the dairy, poultry and eggs consumed in British Columbia come from this area.  

“I am committed to supporting our Sumas Prairie farming community and stand firmly opposed to the BC Conservative’s reckless plan to re-flood Sumas Lake,” said BC United MLA candidate for Abbotsford South, Markus Delves. “Flooding this fertile farmland would displace thousands of farmers who have farmed this land for generations, while wiping out the lands they use to feed British Columbians. A BC United government, led by Kevin Falcon, would protect this vital farmland and help to provide the flood infrastructure funding Abbotsford deserves, while working in partnership with our farmers and Sumas First Nations neighbours.” 

City of Abbotsford/Sumas Prairie November 2021 Flood

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