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A view of a container and bulk terminal on the Fraser River in the Lower Mainland.

Handout

A major flood of B.C.'s Fraser River could affect as many as 2.2 million people, devastating residents, destroying First Nations' lands and putting a damper on the province's economy.

Groups representing many of those interests are now developing a comprehensive flood plan, recognizing that the Lower Mainland is highly vulnerable to river and coastal flooding, and that climate change means the risk of a disaster will increase.

At a New Westminster, B.C., meeting next to the Fraser River, Steve Litke with the Fraser Basin Council told a crowd that the cost of planning far outweighs the cost of reacting.

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He says the planning process will occur in two phases, the first involving widespread analysis costing about $500,000 and the second will start in 2016 with the development of a specific regional strategy and action plan.

David Park, who represents 13 Chambers of Commerce, says only one of every 15 dykes currently in place meets the provincial design standard, meaning the region is highly vulnerable.

A recent B.C. government study found that by the end of this century, a one in 50-year flood could cause chaos in the same magnitude to floods that currently return once every 200 to 500 years.

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