The events of November 16, 2021, forever changed the lives of residents and business owners living in the Sumas Prairie. On this date, a predictable, foreseeable and preventable tragedy struck the region, upending the livelihoods of individuals who called the Sumas Prairie home.
On this date, floodwaters from the overflowing Nooksack River in the State of Washington flowed into British Columbia and encountered the Sumas Lake Reclamation dike. However, as opposed to preventing this floodwater from refilling what used to be Sumas Lake, the dike gave way in two places, providing floodwater from the Nooksack River unfettered access to the homes and businesses on the Sumas Prairie. Had the government bodies acted appropriately on what they knew was an inevitable risk of a cataclysmic flood by implementing existing infrastructure to shore up the dike in the hours and days preceding the Sumas Flood, the Sumas Flood would never have happened. Additionally, the governments could have warned residents of the danger and provided them the opportunity to help themselves. On both counts, however, the governments failed.
Once in the Sumas Prairie, the floodwater wreaked havoc over the real and personal property of residents in the area. Crops were flooded, inventory was rendered unsalvageable, equipment was destroyed and thousands of animals were drowned, including chickens, cattle and other livestock. On top of that, personal residences were flooded, farms were devastated and a tight-knit community was decimated.
The City of Abbotsford, the Fraser Valley Regional District and the Province of British Columbia chose not to act as the events immediately preceding the catastrophe unfolded. Despite ample ability to track the weather events leading up to the Sumas Flood, these governments did not fulfill the duties that they owed to residents of the Sumas Prairie. Instead of warning of the impending flooding or implementing emergency procedures, the City of Abbotsford, the Fraser Valley Regional District and the Province of British Columbia allowed the Sumas Flood to occur. Had adequate notice been provided to residents of the Sumas Prairie, they would have had the opportunity to reduce or prevent their losses altogether. In the end, however, government inaction robbed them of this life-altering chance. This lawsuit seeks to hold the Defendants liable for their failures that caused and exacerbated the damages flowing from the Sumas Flood.
A hearing to certify the lawsuit as a class action is scheduled to begin on June 5, 2023, and last 10 days.