Feature Story                                                                                                   Monday, April 13, 2015

 

A Leak in the Dike

Fairfield Island residents and Native leaders demand answers

Staff/Voice photos

 

Protestors against raising the dike on Young Road listen to Acting Mayor Sam Waddington (L) speak with Dave Hallett last Tuesday. Below, Rob Carnegie talks with Chief Russell Jimmie Jr., who wanted to know why Skwah wasn't consulted on the City's plans.

 

hey came. They conquered. A couple dozen placard-carrying residents from Fairfield Island, along with local Native leaders, stormed the Bastille with a protest that began outside Chilliwack City Hall Tuesday and continued inside council chambers, eventually shutting down the bi-weekly meeting.

 

Mayor Sharon Gaetz came very close to being in contravention of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. With her brother heckling from the public gallery at City Hall council chambers, she declared herself in conflict, suspended the meeting, and had acting mayor, councillor Sam Waddington, stand in.

 

The rally, led by the mayor's brother, Dave Hallett, was to protest the raising of Young Road as part of the City's flood protection strategy, and not completing the 3.5 kilometers of diking down Cartmell Road onto the Skwah Reserve instead.

 

The whole dike issue is a complicated one. Protestors are mystified by council’s decision to follow staff’s recommendations when it will cost more. They say the answer is breathtakingly simple… upgrade the dike on Cartmell Road to cover the entire community, instead of leaving 2000 acres of reserve land unprotected in the event of a one-in-500 year flood. As it is, the area is protected for a one-in-200 year flood.

 

The City did a 2 km stretch of dike along Cartmell Road, but for some reason stopped at the reservation. Instead of completing the final section of the dike, council is following the lead of the unelected forces at City Hall by raising 7 km of Young Road, at much higher cost to taxpayers than the 3.5 km on Cartmell.

 

Hallett says he and protestors are mystified by staff's decision to ask council to rubber stamp the plan, which from a taxpayer’s point-of-view doesn't make sense, and equally moot is the flip-flop some councillors made on their decision to support raising the dike down Young Road.

 

From the Natives standpoint, they want the same standard of protection the rest of the city enjoys. The last big flood was in 1948. It was pretty severe, even the train tracks were underwater throughout the valley.

 

 

Dike protestors were out in force Tuesday outside Chilliwack City Hall.

 

“No one told us about any dike work,” Skwah chief Russell Williams Jr. told Director of Corporate Services, Rob Carnegie in the City Hall lobby.

 

Hallett feels the reason the City stopped the dike on Cartmell stems from the discombobulation with Squiala over the Eagle Landing development. Once the dike is completed, Skwah could get funding to develop and attract business to their 2000 acres. Without the dike upgrade, there's no chance.

 

“I think they're upset what happened at Eagle Landing when the City pushed the road through and now Eagle Landing has tenants like home depot, Wal-Mart who do pay taxes the City because they're hooked into sewer, water and what have you, but they're not getting their full taxes,” Hallett told The Voice.

 

So, this begs the question; is the City of Chilliwack purposely helping keep Skwah in an economically depressed state by not completing the last km of dike?

 

Protestors were asked to leave council chambers and did so quite peacefully, taking the rally to the lobby. At that point Deputy Chief Administrative Officer, Chris Crosman, grinned and made the "phone" sign with his hand to Carnegie indicating time to call the cops.

 

At one point, the drumming was so loud from the lobby that staff and council couldn’t hear themselves talk in chambers.

 

Four RCMP showed up to usher protestors out.

 

Below is the conversation Hallett had with The Voice prior to the meeting, followed by the interaction between Acting Mayor Sam Waddington and protestors in the City Hall lobby.

 

 

Interview with group spokesperson Dave Hallett:

 

Protestors make their voices known to council last Tuesday at Chilliwack City Hall.

 

Hallett: Chilliwack is surrounded by probably 8 reserves in this area and we have the opportunity to protect three more First Nations properties by completing one more kilometer of dike. The direction the City was going with the dike was down Cartmell Rd. and they've already got two kilometers of Cartmell road completed up to the new standards, the 1-in-500 year flood standards.

 

Q. So there's 3.5 more kilometers to go. What's the issue with that?

We don't understand what the issue is. Staff is telling City council that First Nations aren't willing to cooperate in order to complete the section of dike on their land. So, the City has one more kilometer to go on City land and once they've completes that one-kilometer stretch, First Nations and federal government, Sto:lo Nation, they have to have money put towards completing the last two kilometers of dike to protect 3 Bands.

 

So, we're perplexed as to why the City would do a 180, and go back down Cartmell Rd and opt with raising Young Rd. from Cartmell, all the way down Young, over the Hope Slough, down Berkely, all the way to Wellington.

 

Then they've got to jump back on the dike that is currently on First Nations land, it's called Dike Rd., and raise that as well, but they haven't asked First Nations if they can raise that section of dike, that is up to the 1-in-200 year standard.

 

Q. What are you opposed to?

We're opposed to them changing direction saying 'we're going to raise 7 kilometers of dike, instead of completing that one kilometer of dike so that First Nations could be protected. So there's a gap in there the City says we're not doing. Because one they close that gap, it offers opportunity for First Nations to do all sorts of things.

 

Q. Like what?

Like create infrastructure. Create jobs. Create housing. Mobile home parks and retirement housing, similar to what they have in Sardis.

 

Q. Some revenue-generating opportunities?

Right. So they can't do it if they don't have dike protection. And the bands know that. There's 2000 acres of land there that they could subdivide but the City has to complete that one kilometer stretch. And they're saying 'we're not doing it'.

 

 

 

Q. Why do you think they're saying that?

I think they're upset what happened at Eagle Landing when the City pushed the road through and now Eagle Landing has tenants like home depot, Wal-Mart who do pay taxes the City because they're hooked into sewer, water and what have you, but they're not getting their full taxes. The band there has generated a lot of funds and the building regulations were different there. So it's easy for Wal-Mart and Home Depot to jump on board and build their buildings if they don't have to build to the flood elevation level, which they would have to do on any land other than first nations land.

 

So you'll notice as you drive through Eagle Landing, all those aren't built at the flood elevation level so they saved a tremendous amount of money by going ahead and the City doesn't like that because there are different rules for First Nations versus us.

 

Q. You're for the Native's stance?

Yeah, we would like to see it better, because it also helps us.

 

Q. How so?

Currently, 95 per cent of the residents on Young Rd., there's 35 of them, would be impacted by raising Young Road.

 

Q. How?

By driveway elevations.

 

Q. How much would they raise it?

One metre.

 

Currently, 95 per cent of the residents on Young Road are affected by driveways that are already steep going into their homes and they're going to be drastically steeper. If you go to Stop the Dike website there are videos posted online that show that.

 

Q. Has this cause any familial issues?

She and I have not talked about this. She won't. I've tried, but she won't talk about it at all.

 

Q. It sounds like a very complicated issue.

Well, what's surprising is – and I think it's misinformation... council voted on this last year and unanimously put it on the back burner. They said no, this is a dumb idea.

 

Q. Before the election?

Yes. Then they brought on two new councillors; Kris Kloot and Sam Waddington. I got a chance to speak to Kris Kloot before the vote. I didn't think anybody would change their vote on this, and then all of a sudden out of the blue we've got four councillors that changed their vote from in favour of going down Young Rd. versus not in favour.

 

 

We don't understand that. Why did they switch? So we want them to continue going down Cartmell Road and the City and taxpayers paid for two kilometers already that is up to the new standard we want them to go the last kilometer. We think something's fishy. Like why wouldn't you be doing that?

 

Q. Why do you think that could be?

I think it’s because they had a problem with First Nations. I absolutely believe that. And this has been going on for years and years and years. We're saying that's not right. It's 2015,

 

Q. So if the dike isn't complete, then the floodwaters could go into the 2000 acres?

It would in the one-in-500 year flood. So they're already diked for the one-in-200 as is most of Chilliwack, so they want to raise up the dikes to the one-in-500. First Nations is saying, 'Wait a minute, we want a dike in behind us to protect 2000 acres.

 

No one is going to give them funding if it's not protected by a dike. You know, private investors coming in like with Eagle Landing how that got built up so fast as a result because they're protected by a dike.

 

Q. Have you talked to the MLA about this?

Yes. We've spoken with John Martin and he thinks it's a dumb idea to go down Young Road and 7 km of dike versus 1 km of dike. Why would we build seven kilometers of dike when we've already gone in a certain direction and you're pulling the plug on that?

 

First Nations are saying; "you can't raise Wolfe Rd and Dike Rd. We're not going to give you permission for that if you're not going to finish off your 1 km stretch of dike."

 

Because, the City is holding the cards and saying 'you won't be protected, you need that 1 km of dike'. And why are they saying that? We don't know. We're trying to figure that out. It's confusing.

 

 

Rob Carnegie and Councillor Sam Waddington addressing protestors at City Hall

 

City of Chilliwack Director of Corporate Services, Rob Carnegie cites a bylaw prohibiting protesting with signs in council chambers.

 

Carnegie: You're welcome to come in, watch the meeting, remain silent and you would not be able to display your signs. So if you want to come back in again that's perfectly fine.

 

(Carnegie brought out an iPad and read out loud Section 19 of the City's procedure bylaw and how the signs would be a breech of that section.)

 

Carnegie: So we would ask that if you choose to join us that you keep your signs outside, and can be kept by the receptionist if you want.

 

Hallett: We've requested a meeting with council and they've refused us. City staff and council have said no. We can't come into council chambers, it's done, it's been voted on, that's why we're here today.

 

(Crossman made the phone call hand signal to Carnegie indicating time to call the police. Carnegie told the group they're free to protest outside.)

 

Carnegie: I understand that that's your purpose and you can certainly free to exercising your rights to communicate with council any way you want to including writing letters.

 

Hallett: But can we arrange for a meeting? We haven't had a chance to speak to any council members regarding this.

 

Waddington: Yeah you have. I sat down with you Dave.

 

Hallett: But all these people want to speak.

 

Waddington: I'm not going to sit down with everyone who wants to meet with me but we can't do it as a council, the decision has been made for the project and the time for a public comment has already come and gone. There were two open community forums.

 

Hallett: But why wasn't there any council input at those forums?

 

Waddington: Because they're public information. We received all the minutes. I looked back over them. I wasn't sitting on council at the time. I've definitely heard the concerns that residents brought forward at the time and I try to be mindful of that.  Ultimately, this project is about flood protection. We have to remember that. We have to get back to that as the mainstay and I think everyone here appreciates that.

 

Hallett: But what we have a problem with is, we have First Nations people here and they're saying; 'You're coming onto our land to put us between the river and the dike. And you're going to ask our permission to raise Dike Road and Wolfe Road, and you're expecting you're going to get permission from us? Do you think that's fair to First Nations?

 

 

 

Waddington: We already have dikes existing obviously and we've got agreements to maintain them.

 

Hallett: Do you think that's fair?

 

Waddington: I wasn't around in the 50's when they were built.

 

Hallett: Now we're saying that you have a chance to turn this thing around and do the right thing.

 

Waddington: Our staff has made that known to every resident who's asked.

Hallett: You're not. You haven't even spoken with Skwah band, you haven't even spoken with Skwah. They weren't even aware about it. They're here and they're going; 'When did you consult us?' Chief and council are here. Let's talk.

 

Chief: You guys never came to us and talked to us about a dike.

 

Hallett: You assume that they're going to give you the right to raise Dike Road and Wolfe Road, don't you think that that's absurd on council's part, and staff's part? You have to get their permission. Do you know where Dike Road is? Where does it run? Through Skwah Band or Skway?

 

Waddington: Dave, that's not the issue here. The issue is Young Road. No it isn't. Nothing works until it all comes together. So, I've got to get to a council meeting here, so give me a moment to say my peace here please. Young Road in itself does provide flood protection.

 

(crowd noise)

 

Hallet: Sam, read this.

 

Waddington: if Young Road is raised and there is a flood that comes and it wraps around Young Road or Wing Dike and it comes back against Young Road, we will do what we did in 1948, which is infill the Hope Slough to provide that backwater from ... (crowd noise).... folks, I'm not going to debate this here. This is the wrong medium.

 

Hallet: But don't tell us we're going to be protected.

 

Waddington: Well, you're not, Dave. You're on the wrong side of the dike.

 

Hallet: But these people are not. They're not on the right side.

 

Protestor: Every dollar that you spend on Young Road is a dollar taken away from doing it correctly that you'll have to do down the road. When I say down the road, you have got serviceable land and you're just going to let it flood down the road? It's not rocket science and you're going to say it's ALR and never gets out. Sardis was ALR 50 years ago. Of course it's coming out. Half of Abbotsford came out. I'm asking you Mr. Waddington and the rest of council; do your homework.

 

Waddington: I have done my homework. Please don't insult me on that aspect. I've met for hours with you folks. I've met with anyone who's asked to meet with me.

 

Hallett: Why would you build up 7 km of dike instead of 3.5 km? Why aren't we doing that?

 

Waddington: If he's your spokesperson, I would ask that he respect the fact that there are facts that in play. And I understand what you folks are getting at. Sections of the Wing Dike are compromised. The river is putting big scour holes against the bank and that dike will fall apart.

 

Hallett: water is nowhere near that dike.

 

Protestor: The City of Abbotsford did all their dikes at a cost of $6M.

 

Waddington: And some of those were realigned as well. Folks, I'm happy to meet with you and I would gladly do that if a spokesperson wants to. If you could have a spokesperson contact me that would be great, I'm happy to do that. But I won't obviously be able to meet with each one of you individually. But if you want to collectively find time that works then ask me, I'm happy to meet with you.

 

 

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