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Wednesday, Apr 13, 2022

Timely response and support for worst flooding in BC’s history helps accelerate community restoration and protect vital infrastructure from further damage

A washed out road on a mountain slope

November 2021 saw a series of atmospheric rivers (heavy rainfall events) in southwestern BC, which resulted in extreme flooding of many communities. Associated Engineering received numerous requests for flood management assistance from various provincial agencies and municipalities. Our specialists in water resources, transportation, environmental management, water quality, hydrogeology, community resilience, and emergency response and recovery responded to our clients’ urgent calls for support. 

Our staff responded swiftly, travelling to locations along Highways 1, 3, 5, and 7, as well as secondary roadways and other sites throughout the Fraser Valley and the BC Interior. They assessed major bridge and culvert washouts, channel avulsions, and general flooding and erosion issues. Our team also played a key coordination role with Emergency Management BC in their Emergency Operations Centre. These efforts have continued with recovery activities in early 2022, as permanent repairs are required for flood-damaged infrastructure.

A train hangs on a damaged railway 

Senior Water Resources Engineer, Geoffrey Cahill, led our emergency flood response efforts for the City of Merritt following the Coldwater River flood of November 15. This was a large event and is now the flood of record for the area. Flood extents in Merritt were vast, causing dike breaches, dike and bank overtopping, two avulsions, a bridge failure, and extensive overland flooding. The city’s wastewater treatment plant was compromised and the FortisBC gas main supplying the city was scoured and suspended in the new avulsion channel. This led to an evacuation order for the City of Merritt’s 7000 residents. 

“We provided an emergency channel assessment and design recommendation for a river diversion to put the Coldwater River flow back in the pre-event channel.” 

A house damaged by a flood falls in the river

Our team then completed rapid dike inspections, with the threat of further atmospheric river events, and provided recommendations for emergency dike repairs, temporary works (HESCO Barriers and Tiger Dams), vehicle and trailer removals from the river, and a second river diversion. In addition, we provided hydrotechnical engineering guidance to the City’s Emergency Operations Centre, field reviews of all dike and bank repairs, and construction oversight at 12 sites, working in collaboration with ten contractors and the Canadian Armed Forces. 

On the weekend of November 28, Associated Engineering received a request from Emergency Management BC and the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to assist in closing a gap in the flood protection infrastructure along Highway 1 at the Sumas River crossing in Abbotsford, BC. 

Workers put together a temporary dam

Jamie Fitzgerald, Manager, Water Resources, tells us, “Our staff immediately attended the site and identified the required flood protection measures.” We provided flood management and structural engineering advice and collaborated with the military, Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, Abbotsford Fire Department, and local contractors. A Tiger Dam representative was also on-site and provided assembly instructions to the team. As a result of their efforts, the Tiger Dam was successfully assembled by 5 am on November 29. 

The Associated Engineering team continues to support the City of Merritt and the BC Ministry of Transportation & Infrastructure with their flood recovery efforts 

Associated Engineering staff involved in the emergency response and recovery efforts on the engineering services include Jamie Fitzgerald, Trevor Friedmann, Nate Antonides, Michael MacLatchy, Kyle Eckart, Eric Finney, Geoffrey Cahill, Carly Davis, John van der Eerden, Chris Duncan, Andrew Wiens, Matt Bowen, Shawn Bidulka, Amr Mohamed, Pat Stancombe, Matt du Toit, Shane Cook, Katrin Habel, Mike Lumb, Ethan Wilkinson, David Harvey, Nik Cuperlovic, Marta Green, Matt Lozie, and several others active in the field monitoring ongoing construction activities.