Whatcom County routinely experiences widespread flooding in the winter months. But this past late fall and winter was one of the worst on record and caused an estimated $1 billion in damages in nearby Abbotsford, BC and about $100 million in damages and one death in Whatcom County.
Loss of animals was staggering, with over 500 dairy cows dead, nearly 700,000 poultry and 12,000 hogs –– mostly in lower BC. Hundreds in the county were left homeless and many of those destitute. Farms and businesses were shattered, and many people are emotionally broken over seeing their lives and livelihoods turned upside down.
As we have shifted into recovery mode it is crucial to look beyond short term fixes and focus on the problems that got us here. Climate change is clearly going to be with us for some time, and is almost certainly contributing to the overabundance of water in our aquifers, river and streams in the winter.
It also leads to a shortage of sufficient water in our streams and rivers in the summer. That means this dual problem, already dire, will likely continue to accelerate. The problems have been understood for some time. But there has not been the political will and community consensus to solve them.
Will the water crisis of 2021 finally provide the impetus for our community to act? If we do not, our problems will only get worse, and our salmon and our farms will be the ones to suffer.
This paper will examine several of the options being considered and analyze their potential contribution to the twin problems of summer flows and winter overflows. This is not a technical exercise but a high level view of the best possible actions needed.