In November 2021, the Coldwater River water levels rose 2.5 times higher than previously established flood levels in just a matter of hours due to an unprecedented atmospheric river. The extreme water flows destroyed flood warning systems, overcame the existing dike infrastructure, and flooded much of the lower-lying areas of the city. (View Flood webpage).
As of fall 2023, temporary spot repairs have been made to the existing dikes, the bridges have been shored up and the development of some new dikes that meet modern 1 in 200-year flood standards, as identified in the Flood Mitigation Plan, are proceeding thanks to funding from the Province of BC. Two new diking projects are commencing: the Public Works Sewage Treatment Plant dike and the Claybanks RV site dike.
Construction on the Public Works dike is scheduled for summer of 2024, pending permit approvals, thanks to $2 million in funding from the BC Ministry of Emergency Management & Climate Readiness (announced February 2023). Engineering and design work is also beginning on the Claybanks RV dike, thanks to an additional $2 million in funding from the Province of BC (announced November 2023).
Significant work remains to protect this lower-lying section of the city from a similar extreme 1 in 200-year flood event.
Previous floodplain mapping shows 130 properties in the flood inundation zone. Today, engineering work to date is showing a potential of 1270 properties in the 200-year flood zone.
The Flood Mitigation Plan adopted by council in November 2022 will take an estimated $109 million to construct. This amount is beyond the internal funding ability of the City, therefore the project relies on attracting significant funding from Provincial and Federal governments. To date, the City has received a fraction of the necessary funding. Currently, the City has only received enough funding to proceed with upgrading small critical sections of dike work (mentioned above).
The City of Merritt has been lobbying both the Federal and Provincial governments for flood protection funding to upgrade the City’s dikes to modern standards and to assist with a managed retreat of some infrastructure in high-risk areas. The Province of BC has been very supportive and the City of Merritt is very grateful for the funding received to date.
The City and the Province continue to lobby the Federal government for support. Part of this work includes the City’s July 2023 proposal submission to the Infrastructure Canada Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund detailing flood-mitigation engineering requirements. As of fall 2023, Infrastructure Canada is unable to provide an estimate of the timing for a decision. At this time, the City does not have funding or a timeline for the implementation of its full Flood Mitigation Plan.
When funding is available, dike improvements are expected to proceed according to the following plan. Projects 1.1 and 1.2 are a rebuild of the original dikes (129 and 130) to modern 1 in 200-year flood standards. Projects 1.3 and 1.4 are pump stations to allow rainwater from the city to be pumped into the river. Project 1.5 involves improvements to the Main Street bridge to meet the construction level of the new dike system.
Project 1.6, and likewise project 2.2, involve land acquisition to enable dike bank protection to be installed along its recommended footprint, as the new dike needs to be higher and wider. Projects 2.1 and 2.3 are the Public Works dike and the Claybanks dike, which are now in progress thanks to funding from the Province of BC (mentioned above).
The Houston Street dike area also needs to be bolstered to meet modern 1-in-200-year flood standards. Other dike-related projects include the reclamation of the Nicola and Coldwater River Confluence at the end of Pine Street titled the Stuwi(x) project. The riverbank also needs to be stabilized at Fir Avenue; however, this project does not currently fall under the City’s jurisdiction. In addition to these dike improvements, the City is proceeding with the replacement of the Middlesboro Bridge, thanks again to the Province of BC.
Note that the exact location of the dike still needs to undergo standard approval processes when funding is made available.
Province supports climate-emergency projects in Merritt
Nov. 1, 2023
MERRITT — To help strengthen resilience against climate-related hazards, the Province is providing funding to the City of Merritt for a pair of projects to strengthen flood-risk
assessment and mitigation in the community.
Merritt will receive $2 million to build a 200-metre dike to mitigate flooding along the Coldwater River from Voght Street to Garcia Street. The area includes Claybanks RV Park, which
had extensive flooding during the atmospheric rivers of November 2021.
“British Columbians are concerned about the increasing effects of climate change and the emergencies we’re already experiencing – like drought, flooding, extreme heat and wildfires,” said Bowinn Ma, Minister of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness. “By funding local, on-the-ground projects, our government is helping First Nations and local governments protect their communities and keep people safer from future emergencies.”
The Province will also provide $150,000 for a flood-risk assessment and emergency preparedness project to support the city’s actions before and during future flood events. City public works staff will use the plan during flood events to prioritize inspections, erect flood protection in high risk areas and implement emergency response measures.
“We are exceedingly grateful to the Province and the Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness for their continued support in helping the City of Merritt in its recovery efforts,” said Merritt mayor Michael Goetz. “These grants are not only critical to helping the city mitigate the risk of future flooding, but they are also integral to economic drivers, such as the much-valued Claybanks RV Park, and equally essential to laying the groundwork in rebuilding the Middlesboro bridge on Voght Street, which was demolished in the flood.”
The Province is providing a total of approximately $5 million to several communities through the Community Emergency Preparedness Fund (CEPF) under the Disaster Risk Reduction- Climate Adaptation stream. These investments also support the Province’s Climate Preparedness and Adaptation Strategy, which outlines a broad range of actions until 2025 to address adverse climate effects and build resilience throughout B.C.
In February 2023, the Province provided $180 million to CEPF, bringing the total provincial investment in the program to $369 million since its establishment in 2017. More than $165 million has been provided to First Nations and local governments through CEPF for approximately 1,600 projects that help communities prepare for disasters and climate-related emergencies. The CEPF is administered by the Union of BC Municipalities on behalf of the Province.
In response to the growing number of climate-related emergencies in B.C., the Province also
launched ClimateReadyBC, which provides mapping tools, risk data and resources to help communities better prepare and reduce the risk from disasters and climate emergencies.
Intake for the current Disaster Risk Reduction-Climate Adaptation stream will be open until March 28, 2024.
For information about the Community Emergency Preparedness Fund, visit: https://www.ubcm.ca/cepf
For information about disaster and climate-risk reduction, visit ClimateReadyBC: https://www.ClimateReadyBC.ca
To learn about the Climate Preparedness and Adaptation Strategy, visit: http://www.gov.bc.ca/BC-Adapts
Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness
Media Relations 250 880-6430