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ADVANCE TIMES EXCLUSIVE

AT YOUR SERVICE: Some suggest more needed to protect floodplains from development

Question-and-answer feature calling on those elected to office in Langley

Langley Advance Times is offering this weekly feature called it “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.

MOST RECENT – AT YOUR SERVICE: City council divided on call for indoor pool

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QUESTION

Langley Township council was asked: Should Langley Township restrict residential development in areas prone to high-stream flow, including in the Nicomekl, Salmon, and Fraser River floodplains?

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ANSWERS

Mayor Jack Froese

A. The Township’s zoning bylaw includes a flood control section that sets building distance and elevation requirements in relation to the Fraser, Salmon, and Nicomekl Rivers, as well as other watercourses within the Township.

Additionally, the Township’s zoning bylaw includes specific rural floodplain zones that have further flood construction level requirements.

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Councillor Petrina Arnason

A. As a local government, the Township of Langley has a responsibility to ensure the safety of its residents, as well as the protection of property and other interests across the community.

The amount of precipitation from recent atmospheric river events across the province in the last number of weeks has been a wake up call for all local governments and districts who are beginning to understand the magnitude of the dangerous storm-event shifts related to climate change.

Experts have long been advising that building on lands that are prone to flooding should be curtailed.

In the case of Langley Township, we are in control of land-use planning and building codes that, when combined with more detailed and updated flood mapping, signal where it would be advisable to allow development.

By continuing to allow development on floodplains, we exaggerate rising insurance costs and create further expenditures from other levels of government to address flooding emergencies and their aftermath.

Unfortunately, these are occurring more often and within a larger scale than in our recent history.

One of the priorities of local government is to ensure that we are protecting people who are vulnerable, and this includes, updating flood maps and ensuring that new developments are only occurring in areas where properties will not be imperiled by frequent, or aberrant, flooding as a result of being situated on a floodplain.

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Councillor David Davis

A. Yes, it should be restricted.

If you put residential housing on a floodplain, you are asking for trouble down the road.

Residential development in a floodplain reduces the area of the natural floodplain, depending on the size of it, and this reduces that actual floodplain that has to take the brunt of the water.

In short it is just smart development.

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Councillor Steve Ferguson

A. No area that is in the floodplain and Agricultural Land Reserve shall be open for residential, commercial, or industrial development.

We at the Township of Langley have strict zoning requirements for watercourses and Integrated Storm Water Management. We also have designated diking districts and pumping stations located throughout the community.

It is imperative that we continue planning for the future – to design flood management systems that can handle these traumatic atmospheric river systems.

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Councillor Margaret Kunst

A. I would first like to extend my condolences to all of those who have experienced flooding of their homes and properties over the past weeks.

My heart especially goes out to our farmers who work so hard to keep food on our tables, to see the utter devastation of their farms and livestock has been heartbreaking.

Anything we can do to make our communities safe from these types of weather events must be a top priority.Yes, we should restrict residential development in a floodplain but from what I understand the Township has no developing land in a floodplain.

Properties that are rural farmland in the ALR (we cannot restrict farm uses) must build three metres above the 100-year flood level.

We would likely have seen much more damage in the Township had it not been for safeguards and processes that were put in place with these events in mind.

That being said, we must stay vigilant and be prepared with adaptation and mitigation strategies, update our emergency plans and work with our provincial and federal governments to ensure our dykes and pumping stations are in the best possible position to manage weather events now and in the future.

Despite these tragic events it’s heartwarming to hear so many wonderful stories of people helping people and gives us hope as we come to the end of an incredibly tumultuous year. Thank you to all our first responders, Township staff, and so many of Langley’s wonderful volunteers for helping to keep our community safe and dry.

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Councillor Bob Long

A. All developments in The Township are required to have ground water plans to support proper drainage, however even the best made plans cannot stop the huge forces of nature during extreme storm events.

Homeowners need to be aware of risks, no matter where their homes are located, and plan accordingly.

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Councillor Kim Richter

A. YES. If we do not, then current and future Township residents will be unnecessarily hurt by climate events.

Upland development, including excessive tree removal and impervious surface development, has had an enormous impact on lowland areas and all the rivers in the Township.

We have known this since the mid-1990s.

We need look no further than Fort Langley for our own local ‘case study,’ which was first raised by Fort Langley farmers and Salmon River environmental stewards. Now 25 years later, the environmental realities they both warned us about have come home to roost.

It’s long past time that Township council starts listening to residents and stops listening to those who just make money through constant development here.

First, Langley Township needs to update its local floodplain maps to clearly identify current “at flooding risk” areas. Development there should be prohibited.

Second, Langley Township must start requiring that downstream flooding risks associated with upland development be included in every rezoning application placed in front of Township council.

Third, Township council needs to start saying “NO” to developments that will cause severe future climate impact through activities like excessive removal of trees and slope development.

The weather and climate have changed.

Township development criteria have not kept up.

While we cannot change the weather, we can change development patterns and requirements that will affect the future impact of weather and climate mitigation in this community.

The time for local government development action is now. Waiting is no longer an option.

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Councillor Blair Whitmarsh

A. This councillor failed to reply to this query, prior to deadline.

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Councillor Eric Woodward

A. This councillor failed to reply to this query, prior to deadline.

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UP NEXT

Next week’s Langley school district trustees are being asked: Should the district track the number of students who get to school by walking, cycling, and public transit, and set goals to increase those numbers to combat climate change?

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Watch for their answers online Sunday.

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story tags

CoronavirusLangley Townshipmunicipal politics

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