Up in ARMS: Proposed Development in South Alouette Flood Plain

Although a number of the references to the floods that have occurred in the past are relating to the 1995 flood, our members’ relationship with flooding goes back as far as the 1955 flood and some have relatives that can cite even earlier floods of even greater magnitude. We are gathering that information. All of this is on record in the Maple Ridge Archives and we have provided a clear example of the magnitude of the 1955 flood. Considering its location of Maple Ridge Park, it is fair to say that the flood capacity is of concern for all of the properties along the Alouette River.

Flood of 1955 Maple Ridge Park

 

Here is a reflection by one of our members of the flood:

“The highest flood “downstream” of the Alu dam I believe was in 1955. The Alu reservoir was rising at an alarming rate and the dam caretaker was directed to open the 3 stop log gates as a pre-spill into the river. There may have been a southwest wind blowing and with no debris boom in the forebay, stumps and woody debris jammed under the gates and the dam caretakers could not close the spill gates again with the reservoir still rising to the crest of the dam. Some of the debris slammed down on the spillway apron and it was breaking up the concrete too -there are museum pictures of this.

It looked so bad that they thought they were going to lose the dam. But the reservoir drained down into the river until it reach the sill bottom. A relative of mine worked for the Dist. MR and told me the scum line on the trees in the 232st Park was 6 feet high when the river recessed to access the Park.”

It is important to know that the estimated flows that were experienced in 1955 were still less than 60% of the predicted 1:200-year projections.
Members of ARMS also strongly urge Council to reflect on how much effort has been put forth by ARMS and City staff in supporting the City with their environmental goals, as well as the money that has been put forward by BC Hydro ratepayers through the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program working to rebuild fish and wild life habitat in the Alouette River Watershed. This relates to the proposed development project because much of the clearing and grading for the roads and building sites will be on, or near, owl, heron, frog, turtle and possibly Species at Risk (SAR) critters (tailed frogs-etc.). We would like to highlight for you some of the work that has been done in partnership with ARMS to this end:

  • Between 2010 and 2017, the BCH-FWCP funded 19 projects in the Alouette River Watershed with a combined value of over a $1 million dollars. BCH-FWCP, successful grant applicants worked in the Alouette River Watershed to restore and maintain spawning and rearing habitat for Chinook and Coho Salmon.
  • A habitat mapping and species inventory project on at-risk species including herons, owls, turtles and frogs, as well as goshawks and deer was also completed. Risk species include:  Western Screech Owl, tailed frogs and the Western Painted Turtle, which were the focus of a project.
  • Inventory of riparian and wetland species as a first step toward future restoration and habitat protection in this watershed.
  • In 2017 – 2018, the FWCP’s Coastal Region Board approved an additional $312,000 for four fish and wildlife projects in the Alouette and Stave River Watersheds. Part of this funding will be used by the Alouette River Management Society to explore fish passage for anadromous salmon in the Alouette River watershed.

We recognize that every house in Maple Ridge has the potential to impact the aforementioned creatures, but this is not a NIMBY reaction, it is the reality of trying to sustain the eco-system of this river and there is specific wildlife that are threatened in the area and the hard work that has gone into protecting them should be acknowledged.

The scope of work that is within the consultant’s reports for the developer are primarily limited to the footprint of the development and does not recognize the special and unique value of the watershed. Nor does it recognize the cumulative effect of this development to the watershed or the consequences of fragmenting habitat. Because of the City’s requirements this is not a requirement of the study, but it calls into question how there is any chance of protecting the watershed. In effect this section of the South Alouette watershed is being destroyed by a thousand cuts.

A true EIA, which ARMS believe should be conducted for this project, requires a comprehensive assessment of the site or area of impact to determine the species that use the area, the type of use (nesting, breeding, rearing, staging, migration, denning, etc.); information on the numbers or densities of each species; are they resident or transient; the extent of the habitat; etc. This is the inventory component which the Letts report attempts to do but it appears to be little more than a literature review and field surveys in October and November which is one of the least active times for many groups of wildlife including birds, reptiles and amphibians. In reality we do not know the current existence and status of the fish and wildlife species identifying the report or if those identified are a complete accounting.

Due to the area plans that are associated with the north side of the river, safe wildlife habitat and corridors are becoming more predominant on the south side of the river. Density such as these being allowed within the RS-3 and RS-2 zones will only exacerbate an already challenging job of protecting the wildlife that is dependent on these lands.  Fewer residents interfering with and adjusting to living amongst the wildlife that are present within the area is another reason that the OCP designated the lower densities.

On another point of evidence that due diligence needs to be done on this application, the following link is a report that was done for the Hammond Area Plan. You will note that attention was given to the impact density bonus would have on Hammond. Yet, the Alouette, which has just as much historical importance, if not more, is facing a change to the zoning that was put in place to protect it—RS-3 RS-2—and a full impact study on what that means for the rest of the river has not been discussed.  Here is the link:

http://www.mapleridge.ca/DocumentCenter/View/6685/Hammond_DensityBonus-TransferProgramAssessment?bidId=

The following is a snapshot of what happens when the big one hits. The following is a statement that was made after the Alberta floods of 2013 and then a link with respect to the impact of the flood.

“It used to be that the largest threat to a person’s home was fire,” says Bill Adams, Insurance Bureau of Canada Vice-President, Western and Pacific. “That’s long since been surpassed by water-related issues, largely the result of Mother Nature.”

Here is the link to the Calgary flood of Bow River. When Mother Nature shows us, we should believe her. Why would we do this when we have enough land in our urban boundary for the development that we need? Why would we put future homeowners at risk to gain compensation funds for an infrastructure project that should have been planned using the proper channels?

https://globalnews.ca/news/4259407/calgary-2013-flooding-photos-then-versus-2018/

In conclusion, with over 80% of this development being in the flood plain, the impact on the river and the surrounding watershed will undermine the fabric and intent of our Official Community Plan as it relates to protecting the environment and our waterways, which ARMS actively strives to support within our mandate. And while we recognize that the amenity gain of conservation land in such a desirous location may seem to justify the impacts on the river, we believe that logic should instead fall on the side of continuing to protect this heritage river and the fish habitat and wildlife corridors that are already under assault. We also strongly argue that RS-3 and RS-2 in the flood plain should not be included within Density Bonus consideration and this was an error when the by-law was adopted.

And although we will present a fuller argument against this application at public hearing, we hope that this body of information in itself gives you reason to deny the application. ARMS believe that there is enough land in our Urban Boundary and Urban Reserve that the City does not need to densify in the flood plain of the Alouette River and you would be opening up future applications with this precedent setting application. And at minimum, we do not believe you should be putting future home owners at risk, when it is clear there is still risk involved in developing in the flood plain and, as nice as this development proposes to be, it should not be the legacy this Council strives for.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We truly respect the role that you have taken on.

Cheryl Ashlie

President of ARMS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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