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February 17, 2017
Freshet flooding losses could top $1.1 billion for Fraser Valley agriculture

A new study puts a steep price tag on the potential impacts of freshet flooding for agriculture in the Fraser Valley. The report – published by the Fraser Valley Regional District in partnership with the BC Agriculture & Food Climate Action Initiative – evaluates the overall economic value of agricultural production in the Fraser Valley, and estimates the potential costs and losses to the sector under different flood scenarios.

The Fraser River’s annual peak flow (i.e., the freshet) typically occurs between mid-May and early July. The risk of flooding occurs when there is a large snowpack combined with sudden warm temperatures – in some cases combined with heavy spring precipitation – resulting in higher peak flows.  Modeling to assess the impacts of climate change on river hydrology, indicates that the magnitude and frequency of peak flow floods on the Fraser River could increase in the coming years.

The FVRD is home to 2.4 per cent of the total land farmed in B.C., and 14 per cent of the province’s farms, but generates 38 per cent of the provincial gross annual farm receipts. It is the most intensively farmed area in Canada. The study found that almost 30,000 hectares, over 40 per cent, of the Fraser Valley’s Agricultural Land Reserve lands are vulnerable to freshet flooding.

“The economic value of agriculture in this region is over three billion dollars per year. With a major freshet flood, almost a third of the sector could be impacted, and that doesn’t include all of the non-agricultural infrastructure that would be affected,” says Jason Lum, Chair of the Fraser Valley Regional District. “The FVRD has been a key supporter toward a regional approach to flood management, laying the groundwork for serious investment in flood mitigation with our partners. Prioritizing and implementing improvements to both structural and non-structural flood mitigation measures is the highest priority.”

Utilizing mapped flood extents, flood losses were calculated for two flood scenarios, one with present climate conditions and one applying a future climate scenario (year 2100). A major flood event, (similar to the flood in 1894) would cause over $800 million in damage to agricultural crops, buildings and equipment.  The economic impacts to FVRD communities associated with the agricultural flood losses would be $1.1 billion.

For blueberry grower, Jason Smith, putting a dollar value on agriculture in the region is an important step towards highlighting the need for action to mitigate the risks associated with flooding.

“As a grower, I’m extremely worried about the extreme weather. For perennial crops, it is not only the threat of flooding but also seepage during the growing season that kills the plants roots and makes the fields impassable for harvest” he says, adding that some of his fields that flooded in the 2012 freshet still have not fully recovered. “I am glad to see that this study has been completed and shows the economic value of agriculture in the FVRD. This was a necessary step so others outside of the farming community realize how important agriculture is in our area.  Hopefully this study will get some of the necessary mitigation projects started as soon as possible and that we as farmers never have to deal with the worst case scenario.”

While implementing upgrades to critical dikes is identified as a high priority for flood protection, the report suggests that there is no single solution to increasing agriculture’s resilience to flooding in the Fraser Valley; rather, several measures will need to be introduced over time.

The report also includes recommendations for planning and actions that can be undertaken by individual producers, sector groups and other partners to assist the agriculture sector to be prepared, and to reduce losses and to speed recovery in the case of a flood.

This report is one of the actions identified in the Fraser Valley Adaptation Strategies to better understand potential impacts of climate change to changing freshet flood risk in the Fraser Valley. Funding for this study is part of a $300,000 investment in the implementation of the Fraser Valley Regional Adaptation Strategy by the federal and provincial governments through Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.

The BC Agriculture and Food Climate Action Initiative was established by the BC Agriculture Council in 2008, and is led by an advisory committee of agricultural producers, food processors and representatives from various government agencies. The Initiative has been supported by the Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC with funding provided by the governments of Canada and British Columbia through Growing Forward 2.

 

Learn More:
Read the full report here.

For more information on the Fraser Valley Regional Adaptation Strategy, visit: http://www.bcagclimateaction.ca/adapt/regional-strategies/

For more information on Growing Forward 2 programs in British Columbia, visit: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/topic.page?id=EB8322DE53664C7289317829FA25360E

For more information on Growing Forward 2, visit: http://www.agr.gc.ca/eng/about-us/key-departmental-initiatives/growing-forward-2/?id=1294780620963

 
Media Contacts:
Tamara Leigh
Communications Coordinator
BC Agriculture & Food Climate Action Initiative
778-232‐4036

Jennifer Kinneman
Manager of Corporate Affairs & Strategic Communications
Fraser Valley Regional District
604-702-5056

January 13, 2017
Call for Expressions of Interest: Okanagan Farm Water Management Planning Project

In partnership with Okanagan agricultural groups, the Climate Action Initiative is seeking a contractor to complete a Farm Water Management Planning Project. Please see the Call for Expressions of Interest – EOI2017-OK-FarmWaterPlanning (closes 4pm, February 3rd, 2017) and apply if interested and qualified.

As Okanagan summers become warmer and drier and as precipitation patterns change – including more winter precipitation falling as rain (rather than snow) – producers will be required to adapt their water management practices to suit the changing conditions.  An integrated Farm Water Planning Toolkit has been developed in the Cowichan region where producers have a range of water-management related challenges (e.g. supply, storage, irrigation and drainage). This toolkit is intended to be applicable to many farm types and to address the full range of water management issues (including considerations of climate change).  Providing access to a similar planning tool (which will be adapted for the Okangan), along with water management expertise, would offer the direct and individualized support that Okanagan producers identified as needed in the 2016 Okanagan Regional Adaptation Strategies plan. 

Phase one of the Farm Water Management Planning project will involve training the successful applicant (i.e. contractor) to deliver the toolkit. During this phase of the project the toolkit will also be refined, as needed, for the Okanagan context. Toolkit refinement will also be done (periodically) throughout the project to ensure continuous improvement. Adjustments to the toolkit will not be the contractor’s responsibility.

Supported by the Climate Action Initiative, broader promotion of the toolkit will be provided by local project partners and agricultural organizations through existing distribution and communication channels. The contractor delivering the toolkit will sign up interested producers to the pilot project, as well as promoting the planning process by sharing information at local industry meetings/events. 

Starting as early as possible in 2017, the applied pilot would offer the water management planning process to interested producers in the Okanagan (number dependent on interest and budget cap) on a first-come-first serve basis. There would be no cost to the producers and pilot project would support improvements to the toolkit and better information regarding water management issues and needs – across production systems – in the Okanagan.

 

 

 

November 3, 2016
Fraser River salinity study casts light on future of fresh water for Delta agriculture

Understanding, and adapting to, the potential impacts of climate change on salinity levels in the Fraser River is essential for the future of food production in Delta. A new study that models the effects of climate change and dredging on the future availability of irrigation water for Delta farmers, provides data and projections to help assess the risks and inform planning and decision-making for farmers and government alike.

Delta farmers are dependent on irrigation drawn from the Fraser River to grow their crops. This irrigation water is brought in through carefully managed intakes on the river, filling a network of irrigation ditches before being used on the fields. Salt water has always flowed up the river at high tide and the irrigation intakes are managed accordingly. However, with climate models predicting lower volumes of water flowing downstream during summer, combined with rising sea levels, the “salt wedge” is anticipated to push further up river in the future. This poses a management challenge for the agricultural water supply, creating the risk of contamination from salt water.

“Without good data, we would just be anecdotally saying that we think salinity is going to get worse with climate change and dredging,” says Bruce May, a cranberry farmer and Chair of the Delta Farmers’ Institute’s (DFI) Committee on Irrigation and Salinity. “If we have a model that can show us what is going to happen with different scenarios, we can adjust and maybe change our intake operations somewhat. It is always good to be able to anticipate problems.”

The Delta Farmers’ Institute and the Corporation of Delta partnered with the BC Agriculture & Food Climate Action Initiative to commission a study on the potential impacts of climate change and dredging on salinity in the Fraser River. The study used hydraulic modeling to predict and analyze salinity levels based on low river flow and sea level rise scenarios. While the Port of Vancouver has publicly stated that there are no plans for deeper dredging in the river, the potential for this to change in the future is cause for concern with Delta’s agricultural producers; as a result, dredging practice scenarios were incorporated into the study parameters.

The study identified long-term and near-term impact on salinity by measuring and modeling the number of hours per day (24-hour period) that water was of sufficiently low salinity that it could be used for irrigation. With the current intake at 80th Street, the daily water availability ranges between 24 hours, for normal and wet years, to 4 hours for a dry year.

Looking at near-term impacts over the next 10 to 25 years, the study projected that increasing sea level rise of 0.3m could reduce daily irrigation water availability under low river flows by up to 25 percent. During periods of more extreme low flows, sea level rise impacts are anticipated to further reduce irrigation water availability windows. Longer-term (50-100 years), the modeled impacts of the salt wedge become increasingly severe with respect to irrigation water availability. In all cases (near and long term) increased dredging levels are expected to have substantial effects on irrigation water availability.

“This is the future of farming. Without irrigation water I don’t see agriculture being viable in Delta,” says May. “With this study, we now understand each of these issues and the sensitivity that the salt water wedge has to the different variables we are facing. The next phase of the work, the monitoring, will tell us under which circumstances we can expect to have a problem.”

The effect of climate change on the future availability of irrigation water from the Fraser River was identified as an area of concern in the Delta Adaptation Strategies plan. Completed in 2013, this plan was the result of a collaborative process that brought together Delta’s agricultural producers, and local and provincial government partners, to evaluate potential climate change impacts on local agricultural production, and to develop strategies and actions to address the associated challenges.
A collaborative process to implement priority actions has been underway since autumn of 2013.

This project assists in delivering actions in the Delta Adaptation Strategies related to the function of irrigation intakes and improving understanding of the potential impacts of climate change on irrigation water supply. Funding for this study is part of a $300,000 investment in the implementation of the Delta Regional Adaptation Strategy by the federal and provincial governments through Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.

The BC Agriculture and Food Climate Action Initiative was established by the BC Agriculture Council in 2008, and is led by an advisory committee of agricultural producers, food processors and representatives from various government agencies. The Initiative has been supported by the Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC with funding provided by the governments of Canada and British Columbia through Growing Forward 2.

Learn More: To read the full report, visit: http://www.bcagclimateaction.ca/wp/wp-content/media/DeltaFraser-River-Salinity-Modeling-and-Monitoring-Report-2016.pdf

For more information on The Delta Regional Adaptation Strategy, visit: http://www.bcagclimateaction.ca/adapt/regional-strategies/

For more information on Growing Forward 2 programs in British Columbia, visit: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/topic.page?id=EB8322DE53664C7289317829FA25360E

For more information on Growing Forward 2, visit: http://www.agr.gc.ca/eng/about-us/keydepartmental-initiatives/growing-forward-2/?id=1294780620963

Media Contacts:
Tamara Leigh
Communications Coordinator BC Agriculture & Food Climate Action Initiative
778-232-4036

October 20, 2016
Register Now: November 17th is the Fraser Valley Agricultural Water Management Symposium

All Fraser Valley producers are invited to join this FREE event which will provide:

  • Up to date information about new water regulations and registering your well
  • Information on drainage and ditch management in the region
  • Access to industry experts in agricultural water management
  • Information on some of the local and nearby research on water and climate change adaptation in the Fraser Valley
  • Commodity-specific sessions showcasing local best practices in agricultural water management and technologies (presented by local producers)

When: Thursday, November 17th, 2016 from 9:30am to 5:30pm
Where: Quality Hotel and Conference Centre at 36035 N. Parallel Road, Abbotsford, BC
Cost: There is no cost to attend this event and lunch is provided. Space is limited so registration is required.
Register: Online at https://fraservalleyagriculturalwater.eventbrite.ca
or by contacting Christina Metherall at fraservalley@bcagclimateaction.ca or 
604-813-­4998.

September 30, 2016
Request for Proposals: Cariboo Regional Research Alliance/Organization Project

The Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association is looking for an experienced individual or team to execute this project.

To learn more, download the RFP2016-CB-Agricultural-Research-Organization.pdf. The project context and a brief description of the project’s focus follows below.

Climate change projections for more variability in conditions across the seasons will increase the complexity of management for agriculture.   Local research, including evaluation of technologies, practices and production systems, will support producers with managing through a range of potential conditions. Adjusting existing practices and exploring alternative practices may bolster resilience but requires piloting, evaluation and demonstration in the Cariboo context. Future research requires strong linkages between research and industry priorities and broad and effective communication of research results.

Building upon previously completed work in the region, this project will explore options and develop a model for a sustainable regional research alliance or organization the will engage the Cariboo region’s entire agriculture sector and partners in agricultural research. The research alliance will provide an umbrella for prioritizing and tracking local research and, perhaps most importantly, will provide a home for research findings and will support distribution of research results to producers.

Included in this process will be a focused effort to organize and make available the existing Cariboo-focused information and research. There is potential to build on earlier work to inventory/compile local research. The preferred mechanism for developing this “home” will be determined (and then implemented) by the project partners.