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B.C. mayors ‘dumbfounded’ after Ottawa rejects bid for flood prevention cash |

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A trio of municipalities devastated by British Columbia’s 2021 floods are blasting the federal government over access to prevention funds.

The mayors of Abbotsford, Merritt and Princeton held a joint press conference Monday to vent their frustration after their applications for the federal Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund (DMAF) were denied.

“We are dumbfounded as to why the federal government has chosen to abandon our communities our region and our province,” Abbotsford Mayor Ross Siemens said.

“This was the most expensive natural disaster in Canadian history, and for the first time we witnessed a nine-day closure of a key transporting corridor through the Fraser Valley.”

Click to play video: 'Improving flood resilience in Abbotsford'

Improving flood resilience in Abbotsford

Five people and thousands of farm animals were killed in the November 2021 floods, precipitated by a series of unusually powerful atmospheric rivers.

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About 15,000 people were forced from their homes and the province’s highways and rail links in and out of the Lower Mainland were washed out.

“Senior levels of government promised to support us. They told us this was the way to get it,” Merritt Mayor Michael Goetz said of the multi-billion dollar disaster fund.

“Our application over 500 pages covers everything that could possibly go wrong or everything that could possibly happen. To be denied without a one-line letter that says your application didn’t cover enough of the information we were looking for, I’m not sure what 500 pages did not cover for you.”

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Each of the affected communities has been working since the flood to craft new flood prevention and mitigation plans and infrastructure targets.

Abbotsford said its plan included protecting Highway 1 to ensure the supply of food and goods wouldn’t be cut off during a future flood. Princeton said it remains under a boil water advisory due to the 2021 floods, and that it needs to build a 1.6-kilometre dike and relocate key infrastructure.

Merritt said its dike system washed away in the disaster and that a quarter of the community remains at high risk if water levels rise before they’re replaced.

Click to play video: 'Abbotsford pump station getting upgrades'

Abbotsford pump station getting upgrades

But the mayors say that because the DMAF is structured as a competitive process, in which they vie with other communities across the country for funding, they’re being left out.

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Smaller municipalities and those with fewer financial resources are at a disadvantage when applying for a limited pool of funding, they added.

Princeton Mayor Spencer Coyne likened the process to playing the lottery.

“Community members lost their homes, key infrastructure was impacted, and the community was devastated,” he said.

“The DMAF funding was key to the flood mitigation and adaptation plan of Princeton, but now we are left vulnerable and trying to find a way to pay for the impacts of global climate change on our own with a population of 3,000 and tens of millions of dollars in costs.”

Click to play video: 'Temporary post-flood housing arrives in Merritt'

Temporary post-flood housing arrives in Merritt

In a statement, a spokesperson for Infrastructure Canada acknowledged the “devastating impacts” of the 2021 floods and pointed to $1.4 billion Ottawa had provided in recovery funding.

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For future mitigation, it said the federal government had provided more than $333 million to projects in B.C. through the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund.

That funding includes close to $180 million for five major flood mitigation projects, including $7.3 million in Abbotsford.

“All projects submitted for funding under DMAF are assessed on the information provided in the application, particularly when determining hazard risk, resilience, and return on investment,” the statement reads.

“Infrastructure Canada communicates reasons for decisions directly to applicants, and always offers to answer any questions they might have.”

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The mayors, however, say the federal government isn’t living up to promises it made in the wake of the deadly disaster.

“You already made the commitment so show me the money,” Goetz said.

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“Without their partnership, we simply are not able to take further critical steps forward and we lie in wait of the next flooding disaster,” added Siemens.

The mayors are calling on the federal government to reconsider their applications and to open another stream of funding.

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