Surrey Takes Lead in Flood Control


The following article is an excerpt from:

Growing Together newsletter – Fall 2000 issue  . . . . . .


It should come as no surprise that as urban development increases, the impact on neighbouring agricultural producers – particularly those farms in lowland areas, can be severe.

The City of Surrey is showing the way by correcting long-standing drainage and floodingproblems experienced by farmers in the Sperpentine-Nicomekl Lowlands.

 “The history is quite simple. The agriculture land in Surrey is basically all the lowlands of Surrey,” says Surrey Councilor Marvin Hunt. Over the years as development has continued in the uplands, more and more water has been sent down into the lowlands causing flooding on farmland.”

The Serpentine-Nicomekl Flood Control Project is designed to reduce the frequency and duration of flooding experienced by the area’s farms. A team of engineering, environmental and agriculturalexperts are designing and building dykes, fish friendly pumping stations, a fish-rearing pond, and new riparian buffer zones.

“Flooding has a snowball effect. With the floods comes increased damage to cropsfrom ducks and other wildlife. And, six feet of water laying on a field compacts soil which makes it harder for new roots to take,” says Don Livingston, a third generation farmer and the Co-Chair of the Upper Serpentine Farm reservation Group. “It was getting to the point where we couldn’t afford to farm here anymore.”

Before city officials could tackle the job,a strategic study was completed to examine a number of options to control flooding and improve drainage. Once an overall strategy was selected, the lowlands were broken into smaller functional areas. An integral part of the planning process was a series of open houses intended to gather feedback from local farmers and residents.

“From the start, the strategy had to deal with both environmental and agriculturalconcerns, as well as deal with the impact of storm water,” according to Vince Lalonde, a Project Manager in Surrey’s Engineering Department. “It goes quite a few steps beyond just resolving the upland/lowland drainage problems.”

Originally the project was to be implemented over a 10-year period, but at the urging of Surrey council the majority of benefits from dyke construction and other project initiatives are already being felt by area farmers.

Surrey has ramped up spending to roughly $8 million per year in each of the past two years on this project. They plan to spend a similar amount next year. In total the job of protecting Surrey’s farmland from flood damageis expected to cost roughly $40 million over the entire life of the program.

“The City is taking the bull by the horns and we are certainly thankful for that,” said Livingston. “We can see that the overall plan should work and that it should enhance agricultural production. And that is good for everyone.”