Bill Blair on floods, disaster, recovery and financial aid
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Wednesday, April 20, 2022
Good Morning Reader!
When BC was hit by landslides and floods, generous people donated tens of millions of dollars to help those in need. Much of that money went to the Red Cross, an organization that does important work both here and around the world, and which partnered with the federal and provincial governments to distribute that money. Since November, though, I’ve seen some complaints and concerns about people who have had trouble getting help. But without surveying those affected, it’s hard to know whether complaints are indicative of inevitable individual difficulties or systemic larger challenges with how the response is administered. So we are going to try to do such a survey.

Did you apply for assistance? Did you receive it? How did you find the process? We want to hear about both the challenges and successes. We hope that collecting the information in an ordered manner, we might be able to learn some things. So please, if you applied for disaster assistance since November take this very brief survey. We promise not to disclose any information without your explicit permission.
—Tyler Olsen, managing editor

Today’s weather: 🌤 15 C
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Nine months after Lytton burned down, little has been done to clean up debris. The village’s only grocery store remains a burnt out husk. 📸 Tyler Olsen
Lytton rebuild taking too long, emergency preparedness minister concedes

Former Lytton residents have repeatedly expressed dissatisfaction with how long it is taking to get the town cleared of debris and the rebuild started. Now, federal emergency preparedness minister Bill Blair says he is also unsatisfied with the recovery.

Nine months after it burned down, Lytton still looks much the same as it did days after the fire. And in an interview with The Current last week, Blair conceded that more needs to be done to get Lytton residents back in their homes.

The federal government has promised $5 million to help the town rebuild, but that sum pales both in comparison with the task ahead and the $5 billion promised for flood victims. But money and government funding for that recovery largely depends on decisions made by the province, Blair said.

The Current also asked about about the flood recovery in the Fraser Valley, discussions with the US about the Nooksack River’s future, and the troubles some have encountered in trying to access financial support from the Red Cross. Read the full interview here.

If you are interested in a specific topic, click the following links to skip direct to those questions: Nooksack international relations / Speed of disaster response / National flood insurance program / Lytton recovery / Red Cross response / Climate change and preparing for the future

Yesterday: Bird flu poses new threat to Fraser Valley’s flood-hit poultry industry
Need to Know
⚠ Sumas Lake should be restored, according to members of a BC working group [Lower Fraser River Working Group]

🚨 A 12-year-old boy was hospitalized after being struck in a Mission crosswalk
[Mission Record]

🚓 Two people were arrested after a home invasion in Mission over the weekend [Mission Record]

🗳 Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld says he will run again this fall [Vancouver Sun] / We reported last October on a decade of turmoil linked to Neufeld

👉 Crossroads Dairy’s community flood relief hub is closing at the end of the month [CTV]

Crews have removed hundreds of dump trucks worth of silt from the banks of the Fraser near the heavily used Island 22 boat launch. 📸 Creative Photo Corner/Shutterstock
The Agenda
Crews have removed a huge amount of silt and dirt from the vicinity of the Island 22 boat launch in an attempt to get the facility ready for spring after last November’s flooding and landslides. While the boat launch and surrounding area wasn’t heavily damaged last November, the river dumped tonnes (literally) of sediment in the area. Sediment deposits had already been increasing in the area recently, but November sped up the process. Landslides sent dirt, mud, and silt into the Fraser up stream. As the river slowed near Island 22, it dropped some of that sediment along its southern shore, near the boat launch. That left the riverbed shallower and has made launching boats more difficult. As the water receded over the winter, crews worked to remove much of that sediment. By mid-April, 281 tandem dump truck loads—more than 3,600 metric tonnes—of material had been removed from the site. "It became evident that the damage to the launch was of a different sort than typical damage after the annual freshet," FVRD staff reported this month. A geomorphologist has been hired to figure out what needs to be done in the long-term.

After two years away, Hope’s annual Canada Day festivities will return to Memorial Park on July 1 with a wealth of various attractions, entertainment, and children’s activities. The day will be capped with fireworks, according to the Fraser Valley Regional District, which hosts the festivities through its recreation services division. Officials are discussing with Hope’s Mountainview Brewing to host the beer garden. COVID seems unlikely to squash the festivities, but officials do note that the pandemic may continue to have an effect: COVID, they say, has greatly reduced the number of contractors who provide children’s activities, leaving those events dependent on who remains and is available.

"No bad news, but no good news either." That was how Gerry Slykhuis, the Chilliwack school district’s secretary-treasurer, described the upcoming budget. There are expected to be 350 more students in Chilliwack’s school system next year, bringing in an additional $3.4 million for the district’s budget. But other than that, Chilliwack schools aren’t expecting much in the way of new funding, Slykhuis said. The result is a $155.9 million budget that will include funding for education assistants, Indigenous support staff, and hires to staff Chilliwack’s new schools. The budget didn’t include any significant cuts for the next fiscal year. Slykhuis noted that the district is struggling to get some of the vehicles it had included in its capital budget in order to sustain the district’s fleet.
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Around Town
🚗 The Central Fraser Valley Country Car Show takes place April 24. Registration starts at 8am; show starts at 10am. A silent auction will raise money for the Vintage Car Club of Canada’s local chapter and Aldergrove Community Secondary School’s automotive program.

🏅 The Rotary Club of Abbotsford-Sumas holds a fundraising dinner and silent auction April 30 to support youth and seniors programs. Deadline to buy tickets is April 21. Details here.

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