BC extends state of emergency, restrictions on fuel and travel, as ‘significant weather’ poses more challenges

A man uses a digger next to a flooded farm in Abbotsford, BC, November 29, 2021.JONATHAN HAYWARD / The Canadian Press

British Columbia has expanded its state of emergency to support flood recovery efforts as well as orders restricting fuel purchases to unnecessary vehicles and restricting travel along hard-hit sections of the province’s compromised motorways.

In the announcement of the expansions on Monday, Secretary of Public Safety Mike Farnworth said the “significant weather” continues to pose challenges for the Trans Mountain Pipeline, which typically brings in 85 per cent of the fuel required in BC for refining and has been offline since . Nov 14

“The fuel-saving measures are working and I would like to thank British Colombians for their patience – but we have to stay the course for another two weeks until we have the Trans Mountain Pipeline online again,” said Mr. Farnworth. “We need to ensure that our supply chains and emergency services have the fuel they need to function.”

The executive order, which limits fuel purchases to 30 liters per. visits to a gas station, apply to the lower mainland, Sea-to-Sky region, Sunshine Coast, Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island. This order, together with the state of emergency giving the province the power to implement it, has been extended until at least 14 December.

The province is also extending a decree banning unnecessary travel on sections of Highways 3, 7 and 99. Those who violate the rules could face fines of up to $ 2,000.

BC is currently between the second and third of a series of foreshadowed storms. Efforts to clean up and rebuild after the severe floods two weeks ago, which damaged critical infrastructure and affected all major highways, have taken place in parallel with the night’s efforts involving hundreds of workers and volunteers to sandbags and prepare for more harsh weather. Meanwhile, the government has had to find alternative ways to ensure the movement of essential goods such as fuel.

Energy Secretary Bruce Ralston said government personnel have worked with their federal counterparts at Transport Canada and Natural Resources Canada as well as fuel suppliers, retailers and the Canadian Fuels Association to ensure BC has an adequate fuel supply.

“Fuel has found its way to the lower mainland from Alberta through the railroads,” Mr. Ralston Monday. “We also know that some barges have arrived to unload fuel from the United States. This has given us a supply of fuel to compensate for the product that would normally come from the Trans Mountain Pipeline while the company works to restart the line.”

CP Rail has said 30 sites were damaged after the rainstorm, but resumed some operations last week.

However, some manufacturers are still struggling with the transport challenges of damaged infrastructure. Forestry firm West Fraser has announced it is temporarily closing two pulp mills, with 220 workers laid off, according to the Williams Lake Tribune. The company said it is unable to ship the product and has run out of available stock.

In Abbotsford, Mayor Henry Braun said on Monday that the water from the Nooksack River, which broke a dike in Sumas, Washington, and was expected to flow into his city on Sunday, ended up taking a day longer than predicted by U.S. officials. The Fraser River also fell low enough for Abbotsford to reopen the locks at its Barrowtown pumping station after a brief closure, allowing the water from the Sumas River to drain.

“The two things in combination make me very comfortable and I feel much better today than I did yesterday at this time on the other [weather] event, the mayor said at a news conference. “The third is still unknown. Everything holds, so I think we are in good shape.”

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The water had not reached the critically affected Sumas Prairie lake bottom Monday afternoon, but reached about two feet in Abbotsford’s Huntingdon Village along the U.S. border, where an evacuation order is still in place.

Armel Castellan, a warning preparedness meteorologist at Environment and Climate Change Canada, said Monday that the southern BC. “24-hour break” from rain, and that the next system again is an atmospheric river coming in from near the Philippines, and has traveled 8,000 to 9,000 kilometers over the last few days.

“It will deliver a relatively strong blow, similar to what we saw over the weekend,” he said. “We’re talking about 50 to 100 millimeters on the south coast of the lower mainland, the Sunshine Coast, Howe Sound and the Fraser Valley.”

Mr. Castellan added that the region is not only dealing with rain, but also snowmelt and a subsequent storm event.

“So even though the third storm is not as bad as it could have been in modeling until today, it will be problematic because they come so close, back to back, with the runoff and the saturated soil.”

BC’s River Forecast Center upgraded flood alarms for the entire Vancouver Island and a large stretch of the south coast, from Vancouver to Bella Coola, Monday morning.

In the Cowichan district, which has been in a local state of emergency since mid-November, 147 properties have been assessed for flood damage in the past two weeks. A flood district run by the regional district with the Cowichan tribes, the Halalt First Nation and the Penelakut tribe has served 200 people in the last four days. With further heavy rain in the forecast, a team of 30 Canadian forces members were deployed over the weekend to the most affected communities in the region to support sandbags and preparedness.

With up to 100 millimeters of rain predicted for Tuesday and Wednesday in Howe Sound, the Squamish Nation had relief crews to sandbag vulnerable areas to protect against rising levels of the Cheakamus River. The nation secured accommodation and prepared Totem Hall in Squamish as a reception center in case residents needed to evacuate.

Meanwhile, close to 10 percent of the blueberry fields in BC were hit by the floods, and some farmers are not sure if they will be able to invest time and money to start over.

The BC Blueberry Council estimates that at least 2,500 acres of blueberries have been affected, including about 1,000 acres that remain underwater in Sumas Prairie. Statistics Canada reports that the total area of ​​blueberry production in the province is about 27,000 acres.

The Blueberry Council added that some parts of the Matsqui Flats area and other areas near the Fraser River were also flooded and are likely to experience varying degrees of damage or loss.

Blueberry bushes die when immersed for long periods. Harry Sidhu, a blueberry farmer in Sumas Prairie, said it is likely that hard-hit growers will have to pull their shrubs and replant, at a high price.

“Blueberries are a perennial plant and it takes years for a significant crop yield, so this can be a significant loss of income for many years,” said Mr. Sidhu in a statement.

Sir. Braun said last week that his heart hurt the farmers, who through tears told him they could not afford to start over.

“Some of the farmers they’ve told me they do not know if they want to [replant], they do not know if they can do it financially, ”he said.

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