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Fraser River flood threat passes

New Westminster will begin removing sandbags it had placed at the ready in case the Fraser River flooded.

The provincial government has advised the city the potential for local flooding due to the spring runoff has ended because a significant amount of snow melt has already occurred.

The high snowpack over the winter and into spring had caused concern. In recent weeks, some areas of the Fraser Valley were evacuated but the threat never materialized enough in New Westminster to force authorities to move the sandbags and other temporary measures into place.

“We’re just going to come up with a plan for the deescalation process,” said Dave Jones, manager of the city’s emergency management department.

He said although there was a huge amount of snow the high temperatures never materialized in the northern areas to cause a melt too much for the river’s banks and dikes to handle. As well, there were no extreme high tides from the Pacific Ocean which can have a significant effect on the Fraser River’s volume of water in New Westminster.

“You need a perfect storm to have an effect on New Westminster,” said Jones.

Jones said the biggest flood B.C. has known was in 1894 when the gauge at the Mission Bridge read 8.9 metres and it was 8.2 in 1948. The highest it reached this year was 6.38, but that’s more than in recent memory. In 2007, the last time New West did staging for a possible flood, it went up to 5.94 while in 1999 it was 6.21.

“When it’s above six you tend to stand up and notice,” said Jones, who pointed out Brunette Creek’s level in the Braid industrial area was very high.

“It doesn’t move so it looks like it’s a bathtub but it saw a lot of water.”

The procedures implemented by the city were a bit of a test run, but they still haven’t been proven to work. Only a flood will do that.

“We’re not going to go into it blind, but any untested plan is just that, still an untested plan. But we’ve got a fairly good program. We were one of the first out of the gate to do any measures,” said Jones.

“Who knows what next year’s going to hold.”

Sandbags were provisionally placed at Quayside, Queensborough and Braid. Some of those set up around the city were put there by Metro Vancouver.

Jones said the bags will deteriorate and cannot be used again so will be disposed of, but the sand will be returned to Winvan Construction which supplied it.

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