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The levels of the Coldwater River in Merritt B.C. rise slightly in early June under the flood-destroyed Voght Street bridge on June 2.Melissa Tait/The Globe and Mail

The federal government will provide British Columbia with $870-million in advance payments to rebuild major infrastructure that was damaged in last fall’s flooding.

Federal Minister of Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair and B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth announced the funding on Monday in Vancouver, after the fifth and final meeting of a joint committee they co-chair aimed at charting the course for recovery from the extreme weather event last November.

“I have spoken with mayors and residents of impacted communities and, in these conversations, many of them have made clear that what they need right now is funding so they can return to their homes and get back to their lives,” Mr. Blair said.

Mr. Farnworth said the money will go toward rebuilding public and private infrastructure, and will help with costs the province has incurred to date.

He added that the federal Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements (DFAA) program includes a 15 per cent premium that allows jurisdictions to “build back better,” which the province plans to leverage. He cited the Coquihalla Highway as an example.

“There has been just an amazing job done in getting that highway up and running as one of the major arterial routes into the province,” Mr. Farnworth said.

“That being said, there’s still significant work to be done on a number of bridges, and the significant culverts that need to be able to handle the volume of water that we saw in the atmospheric river. So it would be things such as building and dealing with those culverts to be able to handle that – not just replacing what was there, but building them up to a new standard.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and B.C. Premier John Horgan announced the committee of federal and provincial ministers in late November, on the heels of the widespread flooding that devastated much of the province.

The money announced Monday is part of the initial $5-billion promised to the province in December through the DFAA, and is the second instalment after $207-million announced last month to support efforts to deal with damage from wildfires.

Both ministers acknowledged the $5-billion was based on a first ask from the province, and the full cost of recovery is to be determined.

Last November’s record rainfall led to mudslides and flooding that severed highways, displaced almost 15,000 people and killed hundreds of thousands of farm animals.

A Globe and Mail analysis earlier this year found the cost of recovering what was lost was nearing $9-billion, and could potentially be much higher. The outlays challenge the existing cost-sharing agreements between different levels of government for disasters of this magnitude.

Catastrophe Indices and Quantification Inc., which provides analytical and meteorological information on Canadian natural and human-made catastrophes, estimates insured damage from the flood could reach $675-million, making it the largest insured loss event in the province’s history and the ninth-largest in Canada.

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