Langley Advance Times is offering this weekly feature called “At Your Service.”
It’s another forum in which to put questions to our local politicians about key issues facing our community and its residents.
Using a basic question-and-answer format, elected officials will be asked one question at a time and given the opportunity to respond (to a maximum of 250 words) on that said issue.
Alternating between elected groups, Langley City and Langley Township councils, Langley School Board, Langley MLAs, and Langley MPs each have a chance to participate.
The answers provided will be published in their entirety online Sundays.
Langley MLAs were asked: Have current and past governments done enough to upgrade dike systems in North Langley and Glen Valley?
Abbotsford South MLA Bruce Banman
A. Most people don’t spend a lot of time thinking about our diking systems and what kind of shape they’re in, until the worst happens.
After the devastating flooding we saw in Sumas Prairie and in parts of the Interior last fall, the importance of our dikes and other flood protection measures became clearer than ever.
We cannot wait for a major disaster to tell us when these vital pieces of infrastructure might be inadequate and in need of repair or upgrade. Properly assessing our dikes must be an ongoing priority – and funding improvements to them must also be prioritized by all three levels of government.
Beyond maintaining and improving our diking system, we also need to ensure that residents and farmers are provided with clear, timely warnings so they have as much lead time as possible to protect their loved ones as well as their livelihoods.
I will never forget the anger of farmers in Sumas Prairie who lost 48 hours to move equipment, livestock and keepsakes, because they weren’t warned about the impending flood of the Nooksack River.
It’s my hope the province’s expansion of the Alert Ready System means this will never happen again.
Whether it’s protecting Langley, Abbotsford, Merritt or other communities, we need to take the issue of flood protection much more seriously.
We have been warned that more frequent – and perhaps even stronger – weather events are very likely. Protecting people, their animals, and livelihoods requires a long-term vision, proper planning, and adequate investment from government.
Abbotsford West MLA Michael de Jong
A. If the climate disasters of 2021 have shown us anything, it’s that we need to be prepared for more frequent and more intense weather events in the years to come.
This is why it is vitally important that we prioritize the assessment and monitoring of the state of the dikes in communities prone to flooding – whether they be in Langley, in my home city of Abbotsford, or elsewhere in our province.
We also need to see all levels of government provide adequate levels of funding to maintain and improve our diking systems as needed.
Following last year’s devastating flooding that hit Abbotsford particularly hard, as well as areas in the Interior, we have heard promises from the provincial and federal governments that they will be there to help communities build flood resiliency — however, most of the funding so far has gone towards the cost of responding and recovering from these disasters.
We absolutely need to be helping people get back on their feet after the events of 2021.
But we also need to be thinking ahead.
If we acknowledge that more damaging disasters are likely on the horizon, we need to be ready –and this requires a longer-term plan and some serious dollars behind it to shore up existing infrastructure.
Now that the premier has hit the ‘pause’ button on his billion-dollar museum project, I suggest he and his cabinet colleagues consider injecting some much-needed funds into improving dikes here in the Fraser Valley and beyond.
Langley-East MLA Megan Dykeman
A. For too long, the impacts of climate change – including increased risk of flooding – were ignored – that’s why our government has been diligently working with First Nations, local authorities, and other government partners to better address flood risks and flood management.
In legislation passed in 2003 and 2004, the B.C. Liberal government transferred responsibility for floodplain designation and planning to local governments. We know that these responsibilities are expensive, and that’s why our government has been, and continues to, work diligently with municipalities on developing a collaborative approach.
We have been strengthening our flood mitigation strategy since forming government, and we will continue to work closely with local First Nations, as well as the Township and City of Langley, on emergency preparedness – including dike management.
Langley MLA Andrew Mercier
A. The province has a dedicated flood strategy, with a key focus on working with First Nations, local governments, and other flood-related bodies.
In fact, our Phase 1 engagement process was completed in 2021, and the next step is engagement with industry and non-governmental organizations.
A key part of our strategy was a dike crest survey on all regulated dikes in British Columbia completed in February of 2022, including for the Township of Langley.
This strategy has become even stronger since last November’s flooding events, where both the premier and Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth recognized that the impacts of climate change meant we needed more provincial involvement in flood mitigation and dike management.
While the province does not lead efforts to conduct certain flood mitigation works, there are funding programs in place that support local authorities with assessments, long-recovery, and mitigation projects, as well as disaster recovery funding through EMBC.
Next week, Langley’s MPs are being asked: Will the federal government still meet its goals for planting two billion trees over the next eight years?
Watch for the politicians’ answers online Sundays.