The provincial government announced in a press release on Friday (April 21) that new funding would benefit the City of Merritt and other communities by mapping possible flood hazards in areas prone to flooding. 

The Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness and the Ministry of Forests are investing $8.69 million by March of next year to conduct flood-hazard mapping on a number of areas, including the Nicola and Coldwater rivers that flow through Merritt. Leveraging an additional $4.33 million in federal funding through Natural Resources Canada, the new program will initially map five area, covering nearly 70 B.C. communities.

“Understanding the risk posed by floods is the first step in helping prevent the damage they can cause,” said Bruce Ralston, minster of forests. “By providing more widespread flood-hazard mapping, we are providing communities with the tools they need to properly prepare for extreme weather as we all confront the challenges of climate change.”

The province said in its release that flood-plain mapping provides a detailed understanding of potential flooding, helping to inform a variety of projects that can help reduce the impacts of flooding, as well as supporting local decisions by First Nations and local governments to establish appropriate zoning and flood construction levels.

The first five flood-hazard mapping areas in B.C. are:

  • the Fraser and Nechako rivers in the Prince George area;
  • the Bulkley and Skeena rivers from Houston to downstream of Terrace;
  • Shuswap Lake and the mainstem rivers that drain into it;
  • the Nicola and Coldwater rivers ; and
  • the Coquihalla and Fraser rivers from Yale to Mission.

The city said in a statement that it supports the new program’s focus on a regional approach to flood-hazard mapping, adding that the data produced can enable more accurate decision making during flooding events. 

“Coming out of the 2021 flood, the City of Merritt has worked with communities up and down the Coldwater and Nicola rivers to create plans that reduce flood risk and support river restoration,” said Sean Smith, the city’s CAO. 

“In this process, we have seen an absolute need for holistic, regional watershed planning that isn’t limited by jurisdictional boundaries. Good decisions come from good data, and with a more consistent, regional approach to the flood-hazard mapping process, the public and decision makers will have more accurate data.”

Flood-hazard mapping starts with an updated understanding of potential river flows and the impacts from climate change, after which a model of the regions’ land and rivers is created to estimate the depth, velocity, and extent of different flood flows. The results are shown on maps for the community and the public’s use in land-use planning, emergency planning, and flood-risk reduction efforts.

This process will start locally in the coming months, with both of the city’s major rivers included in the study.