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Sediment removal to start on Vedder River near Chilliwack for flood mitigation

Atmospheric rivers washed 440,000 cubic metres of sediment into the Vedder River and Vedder Canal
Gravel removal in the Vedder River was last permitted in the summer of 2016. (Chris Gadsden file photo)

The atmospheric rivers washed more than 440,000 cubic metres of sediment into the Vedder River and Vedder Canal near Chilliwack last fall.

“This was extraordinary, as the long-term sediment deposit rate has declined in the past decade to under 40,000 cubic metres per year,” according to City of Chilliwack notice that parts of the Vedder Rotary trail system would close.

A total of 110,000 cubic metres of sediment will be removed from the Vedder in 2022, with approvals issued by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Province of B.C.

City council voted in July to award the sediment removal tender to Jakes Contracting, in the amount of $500,000.

Consequently sections of the Vedder Trail system will be closed Aug. 30 to Sept. 14 while the flood mitigation sediment removals are underway.

This work is sometimes called gravel removal, but technically gravel is only one component of sediment, a word which can encompass everything from boulders to silt. They’ll be taking material from the Vedder River and Canal, a practice that had been underway every two years for flood protection purposes.

The Vedder River Management Area Committee is the body that plans and designs sediment removals from the Vedder River and Canal to maintain floodway capacity. The committee with reps from City of Chilliwack, City of Abbotsford, BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (MFLNRO), and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), has reviewed and managed gravel removals for the past several decades.

Given the work underway, trail users are asked to stay back for the next two weeks.

“Heavy equipment and gravel trucks will be working in the area. For your safety, please respect trail closures and do not enter work zones.”

Trails Closed until Sept. 14:

• Vedder Rotary Trail North between the train bridge and Hopedale parking lot

• Vedder Rotary Trail North from the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve to the North Dike (Trail will temporarily become an out-and-back trail only)

• Vedder North Dike Trail between the Keith Wilson Bridge and the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve

• Vedder South Dike Trail between the Keith Wilson Bridge and No. 3 Road

Sediment removal from the Vedder became an issue in Chilliwack in 2018, when it was put on hold for two years, after it was determined that not enough sediment had accumulated to be a concern.

The issue was then contested in May 2020 by the Fraser River Salmon Society (FVSS), which wrote letters to provincial and federal authorities, saying there is no defensible flood-protection argument when balanced with the environmental damage it will cause. The salmon advocates said sediment removal would damage and destroy fish habitat. By August, the applications to proceed with the extraction were withdrawn by the Vedder River Management Area Committee.

RELATED: City of Abbotsford applies to study Vedder flood risk

RELATED: Gravel removal put on hold in 2020

RELATED: Last time gravel was removed, it was excessive, said critics

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Trail closures in effect Aug. 30 to Sept. 14, 2022 along the Vedder Rotary Trail system. (City of Chilliwack)

Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering city hall, Indigenous, business, and climate change stories.
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