Media Release: BC group calls for better approach to spending $5 billion recovery fund, on eve of one-year anniversary of catastrophic floods
November 10, 2022 (Vancouver, BC) – The Build Back Better, Together Collaborative (BBBTC), an Indigenous-led group of organizations and experts working towards reducing systemic challenges and developing more integrated and resilient flood planning, is calling on the BC Government to support consistent, best-practice flood management approaches across the province – and to do so in collaboration with local governments, First Nations, farmers and environmental organizations.
In December 2021, the Government of Canada committed $5 billion in funding to British Columbia in response to the devastating impacts of the atmospheric river that occurred in mid-November. Members of the BBBTC are encouraged that resources have been made available to support flood recovery, and that the province is undertaking a public consultation on the BC Flood Strategy. However, there is currently a lack of information on how the funding has been allocated or spent to date.
To ensure that the Lower Fraser and other BC regions are more resilient to future flooding events, the BBBTC wants to see the Province dedicate the remainder of the $5 billion in recovery funding to Build Back Better approaches. The Collaborative is asking the government to prioritize the following actions:
- Support the BBBTC in its work to improve regional dialogue around flood recovery and resilience, and apply the BBBT model process for flood management to support provincial scale flood management;
- Redesign funding programs and adjust regulations to remove barriers so the region can work together in creating more flood-resilient infrastructure;
- Make available, as a minimum, 15 percent of disaster recovery costs for improving resilience, restoring stream connectivity for salmon, and advancing reconciliation in the floodplain, by aligning provincial Disaster Financial Assistance with federal Guidelines for Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements, which specifies that 15 percent of recovery costs can be allocated to mitigation enhancements;
- Engage the region in identifying specific needs for funding and capacity, by reviewing existing policies and programs and creating a map of areas of high risk and critical infrastructure to support building back better together.
The Collaborative is also calling on the BC government to follow through on their 2020 election promise to create a BC Watershed Security Fund, and to allocate a portion of this fund to flood mitigation and recovery projects that strengthen BC’s natural flood defences.
The ‘build back better’ approach to traditional and green infrastructure development includes examples such as:
- Fish-friendly gates upgrade on Agassiz Slough, District of Kent – The municipality, landowners, Indigenous experts, the Resilient Waters field crew and community members came together to support the installation of a fish-friendly flood box that is better suited to handling the projected volumes of water expected with climate change. The new gate will remain open 90 percent longer than the old gate.
- Fish-friendly pump station and flood box upgrade, Lower Tilbury Slough, City of Delta – an existing top-mounted flap gate and pump station will be upgraded to improve fish passage and access to 13 hectares of habitat for migrating juvenile salmon and sturgeon. The project will also improve water quality and move more water into the mainstem Fraser River during high rain or flood events.
- Green infrastructure on an Abbotsford family farm – localized flooding had ripped out most of the farm’s blueberry crop, but after installing plants on the river’s edge, the farm owners were able to slow river flows and provide new habitat for salmon.
“Governments at all levels have been making significant investments in flood recovery to deal with immediate impacts of the November 2021 floods, but we can’t stop at repairs; we need to prepare for future events,” said Lina Azeez, Campaign Manager at Watershed Watch Salmon Society. “Instead of rushing to build back exactly what we had before, as currently required under provincial legislation, we are urging the BC Government to use this window of opportunity to build back better to address vulnerabilities and inequities for a safer, more resilient future.”
“The tragic flooding events of November 2021 drove home the pressing need to move beyond outdated approaches to flood control in the Lower Fraser,” said Tyrone McNeil, President at Stó:lō Tribal Council. “Our communities learned that we need to work together for multi-beneficial flood management that will protect communities and critical infrastructure, advance reconciliation, and ensure long term resilience in a changing climate.”
“Flood management has been underfunded in BC for decades,” said Tamsin Lyle, Principle, Ebbwater Consulting and member of the Collaborative. “With substantial recovery funding now on the table, communities have had to scramble to obtain a share, but all of the communities, organizations and individuals impacted haven’t had an opportunity to develop forward-looking, multi-beneficial recovery plans and to work together to build back better. This has to change.”
About the Build Back Better, Together Collaborative
The Build Back Better, Together Collaborative is an Indigenous-led group of BC-based organizations and experts with the shared goal of helping BC’s flood recovery and management efforts achieve the best possible outcomes. The Collaborative offers interdisciplinary support from a diverse range of interests, experience and networks, including Indigenous groups, conservationists, farmers, environmental legal specialists, researchers and natural resource professionals. Since its inception in October 2021, the Build Back Better, Together Collaborative has met with and supported many communities in the Lower Fraser with resilient flood planning.
Building back better is a pillar of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. The Government of BC and the Government of Canada have committed to implementing Sendai, which confirms that effective risk reduction requires a proactive approach, and disasters can be important opportunities to rethink existing approaches.
For more information about building back better, read the report Flood Recovery, Resilience and Reconciliation in the Lower Fraser from the BBBTC July 2022 Forum: https://watershedwatch.ca/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/2022-09-15-BBBT-July-14-Dialogue-Report_WEB.pdf
Lina Azeez, 604-537-2341, firstname.lastname@example.org