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Abbotsford floods: floodgates open and breach in dike sealed, mayor says

Vancouver –

A breach in the Sumas River embankment has been sealed, but work continues to strengthen it, Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said at a press conference on Sunday afternoon.

In addition, the valves at the Barrowtown pumping station are now fully open, Braun said.

Despite this good news, the mayor said the city was “still far from being out of danger”. Braun said the local state of emergency has been extended until November 29.

Earlier today, the city of Chilliwack announced the completion of dike repairs in a press release lifting an evacuation alert in that city.

Braun began his remarks by highlighting the work of staff and residents near the pumping station to keep it from catastrophically failing early last week.

“After my visit to Barrowtown this morning, I have a whole new appreciation for the fact that we have come closer to this much worse disaster,” said Braun. “We came very close to losing this absolutely critical piece of infrastructure.”

Closing the breach in the dike and opening the gates means that water is no longer flowing from the Sumas River into the old bed of Sumas Lake. Instead, the Sumas drains directly into the Fraser River as expected, and the pumping station pumps water from the old lake to the Fraser as well.

Work still needs to be done to increase the width and height of the repaired dike, Braun said, noting that the water level in the Sumas River is now rising due to the closure of the breach.

“It was a monumental task that we took on and still do,” the mayor said of the dike repair.

“The situation here remains fluid, and a key part of our ability to move things in a positive direction is directly related to how our weather continues to cooperate,” said Braun.

More than 100 Canadian Forces soldiers are on the ground in Abbotsford, helping to rescue livestock, fill sandbags and move people, supplies and equipment through the flooded area.

Sumas Grassland is a 90 square kilometer low area in southeast Abbotsford, over two-thirds of which is ancient Sumas Lake.

Floodwaters from the Nooksack River in the United States flow northward through the Sumas River into the Fraser. When an atmospheric river brought heavy rains and slush to the Pacific Northwest last weekend, the dike holding the Sumas was ruptured in two places, inundating much of the prairie and allowing to the old lake to begin to reform.

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