Premier David Eby shuffled his cabinet earlier in December and Abbotsford-Mission MLA Pam Alexis was named the new minister of agriculture and food. Alexis is now responsible for an agriculture sector that was deeply impacted by the floods in her own district in 2021.
“We need to be ready for these kinds of events because we just don’t know when the next one will be,” Alexis said. “We have to be prepared, as far as the Fraser Valley is concerned, and look at dike improvements… and to figure out how to make the farmer more resilient.”
In June, the Abbotsford council voted in favour of a hybrid flood mitigation plan that combined three of the four previously-proposed options that ranged from $100 million and $2.4 billion in cost. The plan includes constructing a new Sumas River Pump Station, improving resiliency at the Barrowtown Pump Station, and replacing temporary works with permanent works along the Sumas dike.
“I spoke to the mayor and the city manager just last week, and I believe they submitted the [flood mitigation plan] to the premier’s office,” Alexis said.
The Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness says the province is working with the City of Abbotsford and First Nations on flood mitigation for the Sumas Prairie.
“Abbotsford submitted the flood mitigation options to the Province, and we have encouraged them to work with the local First Nations to develop a regional approach to keep people safe in the Sumas Prairie,” the ministry of emergency management said in a statement. “Discussions are ongoing between the province, city and First Nations about flood risk reduction approaches, including consideration of a new pump station.”
Meanwhile, farmers recovering from the floods were able to access the Agrirecovery program for their farms and Distaster Financial Assistance (DFA) for their homes. However, for some blueberry farmers, it could be five years before they can make income from their farms.
“Not all blueberry farmers were impacted in the same way,” Alexis said. “I know that soil quality was not as devastating as once as they thought it might be. So some blueberry farmers are in better shape than others. So certainly, there’ll be programs in place for those that have not been able to revive their crops.”
The Ministry of Agriculture and Food says there aren’t any plans to adjust criteria to the now-closed applications for AgriRecovery for the November 2021 floods.
“As each AgriRecovery program is in direct response to a specific emergency, those in the future will differ to reflect the specific emergency they are responding to,” the ministry said.
In April, the ministry of emergency management announced regulation changes to strengthen the DFA program. The changes included expanding eligibility based on minimum income, increasing maximum annual revenue for small businesses and new eligibility for corporation-owned properties. In September, the Ministry announced another regulatory change to increase the maximum DFA limit for recipients from $300,000 to $400,000.
“Following flooding in November 2021, the Province has made significant changes to ensure more people, communities and businesses can access and receive increased benefits from the DFA program,” the emergency management ministry said.