Flooding in the Fraser Valley

All over the world, climate change is causing water levels to rise. This increases the risk of flooding, in Surrey and across the South Fraser region. Sudden and heavy rains can also cause flooding.

On a farm, flooding can cause:

  • Lost crops.
  • Loss of oxygen and nutrients in soil.
  • Gravel left behind on land.

The Fraser River and its water levels are the region’s biggest concerns when it comes to flooding. This is because so much agricultural land lines the riverbanks. Local governments are working together on a regional flood strategy, and improving the river’s system of dykes. For example, the City of Chilliwack has spent more than $9 million on dyke upgrades in the last 10 years, covering nearly 20 km, or half of the dyking system.

How to Prepare for Flooding

Before you lease land, look into its flood history. Pay a visit to city hall, and find out whether the property is on a floodplain – and what measures your municipality has in place for flood protection and preparation. Learn about Surrey’s floodplain areas.

Depending on where you lease farmland, you may want to choose a flood-resistant crop. Soybeans and rice tolerate flooding better than potatoes and dry beans, for example.

To protect your South Fraser farmland from flooding:

  • Watch the weather closely, and keep up with flood warnings in Surrey, Chilliwack, Langley, and Abbotsford, and across BC.
  • Build flood-preventing infrastructure, such as flood walls and wells, and reduce tilling.
  • Plant cover crops. These are crops you plant in addition to your main crop, to protect against erosion and flooding. Examples include red clover, rye, and oats. In some cases, cover crops also improve soil health, prevent pests and diseases, and increase yields. The U.S. organization Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education has more information on the benefits of cover crops.
  • Review the Fraser Basin Council literature on Flood Management.

Recovering from a Farm Flood

A flood can be devastating to a small farm. If you think you can recover some costs, consider replanting. Just be sure the decision is economic, and not emotional. Calculate all replanting costs, including clearing any debris, seeding, planting, pesticides, tilling, and harvesting, and subtract them from the potential earnings of a delayed harvest. Also be certain the soil will dry out enough in time to support growth (soggy soils may interfere with root development).

 

What’s next? Learn more about irrigating your land