VICTORIA – Local governments will have more control over local land-use decisions and the provincial dike system will be strengthened as a result of the new flood hazard management model announced today by Water, Land and Air Protection Minister Joyce Murray.
“We made a New Era commitment to protect public safety and revitalize the economy,” said Murray. “Our new approach delivers on both of these commitments. It will mean better management, safety protection and more opportunities for investment.”
The new Flood Hazard Statutes Amendment Act puts in place more efficient, cost-effective and locally responsive means for ensuring flood protection. It responds to requests by local governments for more control over flood plain development decisions and removes unnecessary roadblocks to economic development. The new approach also enables improved management of the province’s dikes and improves safety by addressing the problems created by neglected dikes.
In the past, building developments located on flood plains required approval by the provincial government, even in communities with strong dikes and dams. These requirements have meant that developments have been subject to additional expense and, in some cases, cancelled altogether.
In future, these provincial guidelines will no longer be mandatory, and local governments will have flexibility in applying them. This flexibility is of particular importance to local governments that have flood protection provided by dikes or dams, and is expected to stimulate economic investment in a number of these communities.
To assist local governments with that decision-making process, the province is providing $1 million to develop tools and information for municipalities to assist with future flood plain planning. These will be available for the implementation of the new model in the next year and will include flood plain maps and flood hazard information. Additional grants totalling $95,000 have been provided to UBC for flood hazard research.
“Local governments are best equipped to make decisions about what should or should not be built in their communities,” said Minister Murray. “We believe they are perfectly capable of making these decisions in the best interests of their citizens and our new approach gives them the flexibility to do that.”
“These changes are good news for cities like Chilliwack,” said Chilliwack Mayor Clint Hames. “The old system didn’t recognise the flood protection provided by our dike network, and it interfered with proper planning and development. These changes will reduce the cost of building and buying a new home on the flood plain by thousands of dollars, and will result in more logical and effective city planning.”
In response to local governments’ wishes, the province will continue to regulate dikes, perform river and flood forecasting and lead emergency responses.
The new flood hazard management model includes measures to improve dike management and reduce the risks associated with under-funded dike authorities and their dikes. In some circumstances, a single problem dike may compromise an otherwise strong network. The province’s new approach enables local governments and the province to develop agreements on the transfer of these under-resourced authorities to larger authorities over the next seven years. These transfers will include flood hazard maps, GPS location of dikes, guidebooks, training and expertise.
“Larger diking authorities – like nearby local governments – are in the best position to ensure dikes are maintained properly and do not compromise our safety,” said Murray. “Over the next seven years, we will negotiate transfer agreements with the local bodies in the best position to care for these dikes. These transfers will improve public safety.”
In keeping with this move to improve dike management, today’s changes will also address what are known as orphan dikes. These dikes are usually built during an emergency but not maintained or operated by a local authority after the emergency has passed. In future, as emergency dikes are built, they will be the responsibility of the local diking authority or, if necessary, be dismantled following the crisis. Forty-seven existing orphan dikes will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. High-risk dikes will be safeguarded on a priority basis.
As part of government’s overall approach to flood hazard management, Land and Water B.C. is continuing to work with local governments and the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans on gravel removal from rivers – an important component for reducing flood risk. Water, Land and Air Protection will continue to provide flood forecasts and assessment expertise before and during any floods. Emergency response capabilities will continue to be co-ordinated under the Provincial Emergency Program.