Canadian Poultry Magazine

More upgrades to improve flood resilience in Abbotsford, B.C., after 2021 disaster

By The Canadian Press   

News Emerging Trends

Record rainfall in late-2021 killed thousands of poultry and livestock.

Premier David Eby says his government will provide $80 million to help upgrade Abbotsford's Barrowtown Pump Station, which was built in the 1980s to pump water out of the low-lying prairie lands through the Sumas Canal and into the Fraser River. Eby speaks during a news conference in Vancouver on Monday, Feb. 5, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ethan Cairns ETHAN CAIRNS

A critical pump station that came dangerously close to being overwhelmed by floodwaters in British Columbia in November 2021 will receive almost $80 million in upgrades to provide future disaster protection, Premier David Eby said Wednesday.

With the looming threat of climate change, Eby said protecting Fraser Valley residents, farmlands and economically important transportation infrastructure must be addressed ahead of future floods.

Eby said flood-resilience upgrades to Abbotsford’s Barrowtown Pump Station will safeguard the area in the near term, but long-term protections involve ongoing negotiations between the provincial and federal governments and officials in Washington state.


The Barrowtown Pump Station opened in 1983 as a critical piece of infrastructure to the Fraser Valley’s Sumas Prairie’s flood protection system.

It was built to pump water out of the low-lying prairie lands through the Sumas Canal and into the Fraser River.

Eby told a news conference in Abbotsford that his government and area residents don’t want a repeat of the events of November 2021 when hundreds of local residents volunteered to bail water and place sandbags around the pump station.

“The memories are all too fresh for people in this area,” he said. “The breaching of the dike. The water pouring in. The threat to the pump station. The impact to farmers around here. The thousands of families that were affected. The roads and bridges washed out.”

The Fraser Valley region is a key bread basket for B.C., and Eby said the flooding on the Sumas Prairie could have been much worse had the pump station failed.

The record rainfall in November 2021 flooded farms and crops, killed thousands of poultry and livestock, closed highways, and washed out highways and rail lines and prompted a mudslide that killed five people.

Eby said upgrading the pump station will help to better withstand potential floodwaters from the nearby Sumas and Nooksack rivers, and protect the region from future floods.

B.C. and local governments have applied to the federal government to fund the construction of a second Sumas area pump station, but despite federal pledges of funding, approval has yet to arrive, he said.

“We can’t wait,” Eby said in announcing the province’s $76.6-million pledge to upgrade the pump station. “That process is taking too long. We need to make sure that pump station will be protected from the next atmospheric river event here in the valley.”

B.C.’s Emergency Management Ministry said the upgrades include a six-metre wall to help prevent the station from possibly shutting down in another flood, and replacing pump motors to improve efficiency and pumping capacity.

Abbotsford Mayor Ross Siemens said the station upgrade is a vital protection measure, recalling the “harrowing moment for our city as we frantically worked and prayed for a miracle.”

“To say that this pump station is a critical piece of infrastructure is an understatement,” he said. “I still remember the night of Nov. 16 when (former) mayor (Henry) Braun held a news conference at nine o’clock at night and pleaded for residents who hadn’t left the Sumas Prairie to evacuate as the water levels were so high that the Barrowtown Pump Station was at risk of being overrun  by the floodwaters.”

The ministry said the province has provided almost $180 million to support Abbotsford’s recovery since the 2021 disaster.

Eby said B.C. and local governments have asked the federal government for more than $1 billion in flood prevention assistance and recovery funding.

“We know the federal government does move, but it does move slowly,” he said. “We are keeping the pressure on them.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 14, 2024.

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