With 40,000 dead chickens, Sumas Prairie farmer braces for difficult rebuilding – .

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With 40,000 dead chickens, Sumas Prairie farmer braces for difficult rebuilding – .


There was already a foot of water on the roads by the time chicken farmer Dave Martens fled his farm on the Sumas Prairie on Tuesday night.
After desperately working to save what he could – move half of his birds to drier land, move equipment and pets, organize trucks to haul food – Martens eventually had to give up half of his flock as the flood waters approach and calls to evacuate the increasingly strong area. .

His farm is now under six feet of water.

“Forty thousand birds died in my barn,” Martens said. “Who knows what it’s going to be like once we get back out there.” “

The agricultural region east of Abbotsford is one of the hardest hit areas in British Columbia after catastrophic flooding and mudslides destroyed critical infrastructure, highways and farmland this week – and forced thousands of people to flee their homes.

The floods were triggered by historical precipitation the weekend. More than 20 daily precipitation records have been broken across the province.

Avoidable loss?

Martens and his wife, both first generation farmers, started their operation in an “ordinary field” in 1990. Their children were all born on the farm they built and the farm produces a quarter of a million pounds of chicken. every eight weeks.

He says the widespread devastation from this flooding could have been avoided.

Sumas Prairie was created a century ago when Sumas Lake, which stretched south from Chilliwack to Sumas, Wash., Was pumped dry to make way for agriculture.

The four pumps at the Barrowtown Pumping Station are responsible for keeping the water from the Fraser River at bay, but they are currently unable to keep up with the water that is also flowing from the Nooksak River south of the Canada-U.S. Border.

A map of Sumas Prairie showing the location of the Barrowtown Pumping Station which pumps water from the lower area. Blue arrows indicate the flow of flood water in the area from the Nooksak River in Washington. (CBC / Le National)

Martens says that after the 1990 flood – another case where the Nooksak River overflowed across the border – he met then-mayor George Ferguson in Abbotsford and told him about the construction of a dike along the southern border to prevent water from rushing in. again.

“We’re building all of these other pieces of infrastructure here, but the reality is it’s a problem created south of the border and heading north to Canada,” Martens said.

“It’s just disheartening. It didn’t have to happen. It is time for people to take action. “

Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said urgent dike repairs were needed to avoid catastrophic flooding in the town and the full cost of reconstruction could exceed $ 1 billion. Braun said 64 troops are on the ground in Abbotsford as part of a contingent of 120 supporting the city’s efforts.

Community volunteers fill and deliver sandbags to farms in the Sumas Prairie flood zone in Yarrow, British Columbia on Friday, November 19, 2021. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The work is progressing at a frantic pace as new rains are expected.

“I am concerned that the Nooksack is spilling out of its shores again. And if so, that water comes straight back through Sumas through our meadow. That’s what we’re trying to stop before the next rainy event, ”Braun said.

“We will rebuild”

As for Martens, the emotional and financial loss is major and the reconstruction will be difficult.

“It’s not just water. These are carcasses of dead animals. You have feces. Diesel. Other contaminants are floating around. All of this is entering our homes. Everything that is there is destroyed, ”he said.

Martens chokes when he talks about not being able to save his elderly father’s classic car.

“I’m trying to hold on,” he said. “I have to keep telling myself, Dave, this is just stuff. Lives are more important. We will go through this. There are going to be tough days ahead… but we are resourceful. We will recover. We will rebuild. ”

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