Flood 2021 Overview
In November 2021, the City of Merritt and the Nicola Valley (as well as several other BC communities) experienced a disastrous triple atmospheric river event that led to wide spread flooding of the Coldwater River. The water rose in the middle of the night, putting many lives in danger. While there were 37 swiftwater rescues, there was thankfully no loss of life. The torrential waters led to dike failures, a bridge collapse, the failure of the Water System and Wastewater Treatment Plant, and extensive municipal, commercial, and residential property damage amounting to about $150 million. School, Healthcare and essential services ceased to operate. The entire community of more than 7,000 people had to be evacuated. While most families returned to their homes after three weeks, a year later 5% of residents are still misplaced and major repairs are still ongoing. View Infographic.
Damage & Repairs
UPDATED JULY 2023
The City of Merritt employed external consultants and contractors to complete damage assessments and repairs.
Projects completed or in progress include:
- Bridge Replacement – Middlesboro Bridge, Voght Street (initial bridge design complete; funding received; RFP in process; project award: end of September)
- Bridge Repairs – Riprap: Shoring up bridges and river banks with riprap at Houston Street and Main Street bridges (construction July-August 2023).
- Voght Park Oval/Track (detailed design completed; construction began July 2023)
- Claybank RV Park (project awarded in 2023; completion target spring 2024)
- ESS Building This fully-insured building is scheduled to be rebuilt to the same specifications. The RFP will be awarded in 2023 with project completion estimated 2024.
- Sewer main inspections and repairs in entire flood area (financing, inspections, and repairs in progress; target completion: end of 2023).
- Dike Deconstruction: Temporary dikes were placed on private property during the 2021 flood. These dikes must be removed. The City has plans to install new dikes on public land. (in progress)
- Dike Construction: Dike construction will begin with a dike around the Public Works Yard and Wastewater Treatment Plant, from the confluence of Coldwater and Nicola Rivers to Canford Avenue. Preliminary draft engineering is underway and permits are pending. (in progress). Note: Dikes in other areas of the City are undergoing engineering assessments. Details to come.
- Garcia Street Turnaround: The flood washed away the end of Garcia Street, resulting in the loss of a home as well as the turning space for emergency vehicles. The City is working with the Province to reinstate space to allow emergency and support vehicles to turn around. (Working towards detailed design and funding).
- Wastewater Treatment Plant (complete)
- Dike Repairs (complete | further assessments in progress)
- Water System Wells (complete)
- Canford Avenue (complete)
- Greater Flood Area roadworks (project: Fall 2022 – Summer 2023)
- Centennial Park (complete)
- Dog Park in Voght Park (complete)
- Transitional Housing (funding received for 31 manufactured homes; applications for rentals issued and received, first units arrive January/February 2023)
- 17 danger trees along the river banks next to Claybanks RV Park; 6 trees to be modified; 11 to be removed. (complete)
- Soil/Debris Curbside Pickup: Soil and debris cleanup began on December 6, 2021 and ran until the end of June 2022. The city continued after this date to complete some pickups to ensure all remaining debris was collected. (complete)
- 3D printed houses (City does not have available land) (project stalled)
- Coldwater River water main crossing & back-up water line for Collettville (completed July 2023). Note a new water supply from Active Mountain PRV was also incorporated into this project.
A Cautionary Tale
Flood damage can be hidden and very dangerous. There were many locations throughout the City of Merritt where the soil was washed away under the asphalt, hiding potential sink holes. In one incident, the Public Works department were preparing to remove flood debris from a fence along Voght Street. When they deployed the backhoe’s outriggers, one of the footings broke through the asphalt into an unexpected void, nearly hitting a high compression gas line. The team was very lucky that the gas line was not damaged or broken. But the risk of an explosion and bodily harm was very real. This is one of the many reasons the City of Merritt had to be evacuated, as the safety of our citizens is the highest priority.
Disaster Financial Assistance (DFA) provides financial support to assist individuals, small businesses, and municipal governments in recovering from a disaster and restoring damaged property. This assistance is meant to compensate for sudden, unexpected, and uninsurable losses. The Province has listed overland flooding in the Merritt area as a DFA “eligible event”, and many Merritt residents were eligible, applied and received their Disaster Funding allowance. While disaster funding provides adequate finances to build a basic safe, warm and dry building, it does not necessarily provide full replacement cost. Some residents are disappointed with the provided funding.
In Spring 2022, the City of Merritt’s Recovery Operations Team and consultants presented several potential flood mitigation options to Council. While some residents support dredging of the river, hydrologists deem that this is not a viable flood mitigation measure and can negatively impact the environment. A proposal of various diking measures are outlined in this updated Presentation to Council (PDF). The plan will require purchasing some properties that are in the path of the river. The plan also includes flood mitigation for the Nicola River. A final presentation with comprehensive report was submitted November 2022. It is important to note that the designs presented are preliminary and will be modified further after input from residents and first nations. This report is a necessary step in seeking the required estimated $165 million flood mitigation funding from other levels of government.
SAMPLE BEFORE + AFTER DIKE OPTION
Application for Funding
January 2023, Ottawa announced it is making $1 billion in funding available to municipalities, First Nations and provinces and territories for projects to increase climate resiliency and protect against future natural disasters. The City of Merritt was ready in June 2022 with a $165-million recovery plan ready to apply for funding, but applications were closed until now. Municipalities are eligible for up to 40 per cent of funding from DMAF for a project.
April 2022, the BC Ministry of Municipal Affairs provided the City of Merritt with $24,255,000 in funding for recovery from the 2021 flood. A portion of these funds went to the Transitional Evacuee Manufactured Home Program (TEMHP) to help Merritt’s citizens return to the community.
February 2023, the BC Ministry of Emergency Management & Climate Readiness approved $2,000,000 in funding for the City of Merritt’s Coldwater River Flood Mitigation – Public Works to Canford Avenue Dike project. This 100% funded project is a good first step as the City continues to seek funding for its flood mitigation goal of $165 million.
June 2023, the BC Ministry of Emergency Management & Climate Readiness approved $9,600,000 in funding for the Middlesboro Bridge on Voght Street, that collapsed during the 2021 flood.
In summer 2022, about 130 households were still living in temporary shelter, with many outside the community. The City of Merritt worked on a plan to transition displaced residents off Red Cross emergency supports and enable residents to return to their community. With funding from the Province of BC, the City developed the Transitional Evacuee Manufactured Home Program (TEMHP) and were able to purchase 31 manufactured homes to provide temporary, subsidized housing for eligible flood-impacted homeowners and renters. LEARN MORE.
The City of Merritt thanks the Province of BC, the Canadian Armed Forces, the Provincial Health Services Authority’s Health Emergency Management British Columbia (HEMBC) Program, the Canadian Red Cross, the United Way, the Rotary Club of Merritt, the Salvation Army, Samaritan’s Purse, Ask Wellness Society, the Elizabeth Fry Society, Crossroads Community Church, Team Rubicon, Christian Aid Ministries, the First Nations Emergency Repair Program, and Disaster Financial Assistance (DFA) for providing much-needed support and/or funding in response to the 2021 flood. The City also wishes to thank emergency response crews, including Merritt Public Works, Merritt Fire Rescue and the Merritt RCMP. And finally the City acknowledges the many citizens that rose in a time of need to assist their neighbours through evacuation, debris clean-up, and fundraising. Thank you!
- As of November 2022, the City of Merritt has 62 households with 112 people currently living in temporary or commercial accommodations. These families are being tracked by the Canadian Red Cross.
RED CROSS SUPPORT CENTRE STATS
- Recovery Supports : 333 households / 626 people receiving some kind of support (ie: Mental Health support, Financial supports, etc)
- Temporary Housing (Commercial Accommodation): 27 households /56 people
- Temporary Housing (Renting/Billeting) : 35 households / 56 people