Monday, June 04, 2007

Oops! $400 million down the drain.

Fraser threatens housing development

Partly built subdivision sits on what was flood plain next to Bedford Channel

Kent Spencer
The Province
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

9 comments:

casual observer said...

"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...Most Fraser Valley dikes are about 8.5 m in height."

If people are worried about the possibility of flooding in areas where they are protected to 8.5 m, what are the implications for a development that is sitting at 6.6 m? Those basements are going to become in-ground swimming pools if the river floods.

My wife and I have visited this site, took the tour, etc. Nice homes, but the two overwhelming concerns were the proximity to the railroad tracks, and the river. Like you Mohican, we love the area and the history that surrounds it, but we just couldn't ignore those two factors, at any price.

mohican said...

I shake my head. Truly amazing. Apparently having a foot of water in the basement of your BRAND NEW $500,000 HOME is no big deal. Can you say 'gross negligence'?.

casual observer said...

"Apparently having a foot of water in the basement of your BRAND NEW $500,000 HOME is no big deal."

If a foot is OK, how about a metre or two? Believe me, if this happens, the homeowner will not be thinking that it's no big deal. What about the sewer? Will their basements fill up with refuse if the sewer backs up? Not a nice thought.

"...said she was reassured by the developer's commitment to make homes that would withstand a one-in-a-100-year event."

I remember seeing big signs outside of condo developments back in the 90's that said "NO LEAKY CONDOS HERE" because of the developers commitment to sound building practices. Then, a few years later, seeing the all too familiar scaffolding and tent structures set up around the buildings because, guess what, they were leaky. The developer's commitment didn't mean a thing.

Bottom line, developers can say what they want. Most of them form a separate corporation strictly for that development. If things go sour, they just declare bankruptcy on that company, and move on to the next.

If that development floods, I think that they'll have a hard time selling those places without building huge dikes to protect it.

beta said...

Connie Blundy...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

How well will that sand and her foundations stand up to repeated flooding? Because it happens a lot more than every 100 years, and may happen regularly due to climate changes.

Grover Borequist said...

I'm appalled that anyone would pay 500k to live in Langley.

solipsist said...

"reassured by the developer's commitment to make homes that would withstand a one-in-a-100-year event."

I guess she has never heard of the 500 year flood. Everyone looks at the 1948 flood, or the 1894 flood, as the worse case scenario, but we don't have records going back too far.

We do have record snow packs, warm weather, and a lot of beetle-killed trees though.

This from the August 10, 2006 edition of the TYEE talks about it, and they were not yet aware of the record snow packs of the past winter. They titled it The Coming Catastrophe

It will be interesting.

Researchers reviewed records from the two biggest historic floods, in 1894 and 1948, and combined them with new and extremely detailed maps of the river bottom and surrounding flood plain as it is today, including dikes, bridges and other structures built since 1969. They ran all this data through sophisticated computer models not available 40 years ago. And when they looked at what came out, they were, to put it mildly, startled.

"What seems to be the case is that water levels that would be generated today are higher than in 1969," says Steve Litke, the Fraser Basin Council manager overseeing the study. From Harrison River down to New Westminster, the new model produced flood crests above those for which dikes along that stretch of river are designed. The difference is greatest at Mission Bridge, where the new design profile predicts a flood crest nearly 1.6 metres above the old one. Dikes there are built to remain just .6 of a metre above the 1969 crest. That means if the new model is right, a flood on the scale of 1894 would top those dikes by a full metre.

solipsist said...

oops - weird html.

freako said...

"oops - weird html. "

You're busted Randallbaird.

solipsist said...

"You're busted Randallbaird."

No, really, I'm not randombladder - just a brain-dead pappy.