Fraser threatens housing development
Partly built subdivision sits on what was flood plain next to Bedford Channel
Monday, June 04, 2007
CREDIT: Parklane's housing development Bedford Landing along the Fraser River in Langley is bracing for spring freshet with a new set of regulations handed down by the government. Most of the newly constructed home's basements will be one metre below the flood level.
A $400-million housing development on the banks of the Fraser in Fort Langley is in danger from the rising river. "We're in the process of understanding what the implications are in relation to water rising," said Randy Dick, manager of the Bedford Landing development for ParkLane Homes. "We're up high. That's the good news. "It's too early to say what the solution is in the long term. For the short term, with the freshet coming, we're going to keep the water table down with flap gates and pumps."
The development bills itself as "waterfront living in the heart of Fort Langley." The partly built subdivision sits on what was once the flood plain next to the Bedford Channel. Basements of the Bedford homes sit at 6.6 metres. But when protection levels were raised from 6.6 to 7.6 m in January, the basements fell below standard. The standard was adjusted after officials realized their 1969-based models were missing key factors, such as runoff caused by pine-beetle devastation.
Most Fraser Valley dikes are about 8.5 m in height. During the catastrophic flood of 1894, the river reached a height of almost eight metres above sea level. Forecasters say the Fraser could reach six metres soon if hot weather continues. Langley has ordered ParkLane to come up with a plan to keep water off the Bedford site. The developer is installing pumps, valves and flap gates. The pumps will take excess water away and the flap gates will prevent river water from flowing backwards up the storm drains.
Protection measures include shoring up the riverbank and repositioning a section of the dike. Ramin Seifi, Langley Township development manager, said the extra flood protection will cost between $1 million and $10 million. It will be paid by ParkLane, which Seifi said the developer was not happy to hear about. "These things are not cheap, especially a retrofit," said Seifi. "[But] ParkLane realizes these things are unavoidable." Dick, the project manager, said he was not upset about the cost: "We had to put in a number of works anyway . . . It's too early to say what the final cost will be."
Connie Blundy, who bought her half-million-dollar home just 200 m from the river three weeks ago, said she was reassured by the developer's commitment to make homes that would withstand a one-in-a-100-year event. She said she was told it took two years to fill the 31-hectare site with sand from the river bottom, elevating it from the lower-lying flood plain. "Perhaps I should be [concerned], but I'm not really," she said. "The water could cover the basement to a depth of one foot. It would not be the end of the world."
The muddy waters are rising noticeably, said a group of teens suntanning near the Bedford construction site. "It's not so much frightening, as inconvenient," said Fort Langley's Shelby Cairns. "School might have to be relocated." Langley Township didn't maintain a right-of-way to an old dike on the edge of the development when it sold the land to the developer. Seifi said the dike was rendered unnecessary because of the landfill put in by the developer. But provincial dike inspector Neil Peters said the B.C. government would like to see Langley have the right-of-way. "We want to have a right-of-way documented for a future dike," he said.
© The Vancouver Province 2007