The B.C. government is providing funding to the City of Merritt for a few projects to help strengthen flood-risk assessment and mitigation in the community.

According to a news release, Merritt will receive a $2 million fund to build a 200-metre dike to mitigate flooding along the Coldwater River from Voght Street to Garcia Street. The area in which the dike will be built includes Claybanks RV Park, which had extensive flooding during the atmospheric rivers in November 2021.

In addition to that, the provincial government is also providing a $150,000 fund for a flood-risk assessment and emergency preparedness project to support the city’s actions before and during flooding events.

Also according to the release, the City of Merritt’s 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.”

Merritt Mayor Mike Goetz said in the release that the City is really grateful to the Province for their continuous support towards helping Merritt recover.

“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,” he said.

According to the City of Merritt’s website, previous floodplain mapping shows 130 properties in the flood inundation zone. As of today, the ongoing engineering shows a potential of 1270 properties in the flood inundation zone.

As of now, the construction on the Public Works Sewage Treatment Plant dike is scheduled for summer of 2024, as it still is pending permit approvals, according to the City’s website.

As construction continues to improve and rebuild the areas that were affected by the atmospheric river in 2021, there seems to be a lack of familiarity with some of the responsibilities that the City has regarding the dikes.

At the latest regular council meeting on Oct. 24, Coun. Wendy Charney raised some questions regarding the role and responsibilities City of Merritt has towards the maintenance of the local dikes.

Rick Green, director of public works and engineering services at City of Merritt, said that the City is required to do annual inspections on three dikes.

“Our job is to inspect them (the dikes) every year with a qualified inspection agency,” he said. “They give us elicited deficiencies … we need to fix and then we’d have to enlist maintenance activities to maintain them.”

According to B.C.’s Dike Maintenance Act, the dike maintenance is a municipal responsibility, but local diking authorities are required to file annual inspection reports with the provincial dike inspector.

As previously reported by the Herald, this has not been the first time the City is getting funds from the provincial government in order to strengthen flood-risk assessment and mitigation in the community. 

Back in February 2023, the City of Merritt received a $2 million funding for the Coldwater River Flood Mitigation project, which included a Public Works to Canford Avenue dike.

Bowinn Ma, minister of emergency management and climate readiness, said in the release that B.C. residents are concerned about the increasing effects of climate change and the emergencies the province has experienced lately, and sees the support as crucial to keep people safer.

“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.”