UPDATE: High water prompts closure of New West wooden esplanade

Beach in Queensborough also closed as a precaution

New Westminster has temporarily closed part of the waterfront boardwalk because of rising waters on the Fraser River.

In a notice posted on Twitter, the City of New Westminster announced it was taking action because water levels are expected to keep rising through the weekend.

“Please note that the wooden boardwalk along Quayside will be closed starting Friday, July 3 until water levels start going down,” stated the notice. “Please use caution around the riverfront.”

By Friday morning, the city had erected barriers and signage warning people to stay off the wooden esplanade. (Pedestrians are still permitted on the cement pathway in front of Quayside condos.)

Jim Lowrie, the city’s director of engineering, said the closure of the wooden portion of esplanade is a routine precautionary measure, which seeks to keep people away from the water’s edge during periods of high flow. He noted the same measures were taken during the 2018 freshet.

“The city does not anticipate any flooding at this point,” Gabriel Beliveau, acting manager of engineering operations, said in an email to the Record.  “As a precaution, we continue to monitor the situation daily through provincial freshet conference calls and are prepared to take action should conditions warrant.”

Along with the wooden portion of the esplanade on the mainland, Beliveau said beach access in Queensborough is restricted at this time in order to keep pedestrians safe.

On Thursday, the province urged caution and encouraged the public to prepare for localized flooding as water levels are expected to rise in several regions of the province due to heavy rainfall. Some areas, including the Upper Fraser River, are currently under a flood warning, while a number of areas in the province, including the Fraser River from Prince George to Boston Bar, are under flood watch.

The Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General has also warned that there are high lake level conditions and high streamflow throughout much of B.C., including all areas along the Fraser River and its tributaries.

"Water levels rising in these areas are high and very fast moving, so people need to take extra caution right now and be prepared," Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, said in a July 2 press release. "I want to stress that any sort of recreation on these waters is highly dangerous right now, so let's make sure we're not taking any unnecessary risks."

On May 25, council received a staff report about spring freshet and snowpack levels.

“There is no expenditure at this time except the allocation of staff time to monitor the river basin conditions, assess the developing risk, initiate minor preparations and inventory review and to complete the annual dike inspection,” said the report. “Additional financial resources may be required to implement flood-mitigation measures depending on the further development of freshet conditions.”

The report stated the city’s freshet preparation work plan  is regularly updated and includes actions such as: monitoring snowpack information to assess risk; completing a dike inspection and crest survey to identify potential areas where either permanent or temporary works may be necessary (completed on April 9); evaluating new flood-protection techniques developed since 2019 that could be used for permanent or temporary mitigation measures; and updating contact lists of local suppliers and contractors and potential emergency .

According to the May 25 report, the city has more than 40,000 burlap sandbags, with another 12,000 ordered on March 19. The city placed orders for various sizes of sandbags in April.

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