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Advisory from AAFC

Following the severe flooding in B.C.’s lower mainland, AAFC is actively gathering information on the situation and the impacts to the sector and food supply chain. In an effort to keep industry informed on the situation and of key details and developments in order to better enable emergency planning within the supply chain, AAFC will send information and updates via this platform as they become available.  Below is the most recent information that AAFC has on the situation. Industry representatives are asked to share concerns or impacts via the, as was done throughout the pandemic, to ensure the department is kept informed of priorities areas of concern.

Transportation Updates

As of November 16, the atmospheric river weather event has ended. There are no major precipitation events expected through the remainder of the week of November 15, and all river flows are dropping as a result of diminished rain. Currently, there is no threat of flooding in the Lower Fraser River; the river has dropped by 1m already on 15 Nov and is expected to continue receding.

Parts of Highway 1 are closed across multiple locations including from Abbotsford and Chilliwack through to Hope and Spences Bridge. Highway 1 has partially re-opened during daytime hours to a single lane with alternating traffic. It will be closed overnight, from 21:00 EST to 09:00 EST for maintenance operations. Highway 3 remains closed east of Hope. However, it is estimated that it could be repaired by 21 Nov. Highway 11, Highway 5 from Hope to Merrit, Highway 8 and Highway 99 from Pemberton to Lillooet are all closed at the present time. Highway 7 has re-opened for single lane alternating traffic deemed essential. It is estimated that it will take approximately five days before there is a resumption of traffic flow to the Lower Mainland, likely via Highway 3.

All major highways (1, 3 and 5) to/from the B.C. Interior are currently closed and several areas are on evacuation order or alert. CN and CP rail lines have also been disrupted.

At this time, AAFC does not currently know when any of these highways may be reopened, nor if there will be any load restrictions on re-opened roads. Given the challenging conditions (heavy winds and power outages) at damage sites, it is currently not known when damage assessments will be completed or when reconstruction efforts will begin. It appears as though Highway 3 may be the first to open, potentially in the coming days, with other closures with the potential to be prolonged. We remain in close contact with provincial officials on this question.

Both CN and CP rail lines have multiple impact sites and infrastructure threats along the Vancouver to Kamloops corridor. There is currently no official estimated time for re-opening. CN has been quoted in the news that it will take “several” days to repair the damage and restore service. In the same article, CP has been quoted as saying it will attempt to direct trains and goods to Portland, Oregon in the US.

The Port of Vancouver is reporting that all rail service coming to and from the Port is halted. Vessel delays and heightened anchorage demand are expected due to disruptions to terminal operations.

Government Actions

AAFC is working with the Province of British Columbia and other federal government departments to assess the impact of this extreme weather event, minimize disruptions to local food supply chains and consider transportation alternatives.  AAFC has heard the industry’s concerns regarding animal welfare, transportation, food supply/security and labour and input shortages.

AAFC has received questions from grocery suppliers on alternatives for trucking goods into Vancouver’s Lower Mainland (i.e. trans-shipment through the United States); AAFC is reaching out to federal partners to discuss options. The highway on the US side is also experiencing flooding, though it is anticipated that it will be cleared faster than in Canada.

AAFC will continue to monitor the situation and collaborate with the Province to help producers have access to support they may need to address impacts of this weather event.

Earlier today, Minister of Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair has indicated that the Canadian Forces will be deployed to “…assist with evacuation efforts, support supply chain routes, and protect residents against floods and landslides”.  AAFC has received no further details at this time as to what specific actions the Forces will be taking to support supply chain routes, but will provide updates as they become available.

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