The federal government has issued an interim order temporarily banning non-essential vessel traffic in flooding in certain areas of British Columbia.
The areas under the order include Merritt, Princeton, Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Hope, Lytton, Tulameen and the Nicola River.
Omar Alghabra, federal Minister of Transportation, said during a virtual press conference Sunday that the move was temporary and is intended to target those who aren’t on the water for essential reasons.
“I want to be clear, this interim order does not prevent the use of boats involved in providing any form of assistance. It is only meant to prevent the use of vessels for leisure activities,” Alghabra told reporters.
Furthermore, the federal government has also banned aircraft from flying lower than 1,000 feet between Abbotsford International Airport and Chilliwack airport.
“We will continue to extend these restrictions based on conditions and ongoing recovery efforts,” said Alghabra, who noted that National Aerial Surveillance Program aircraft have conducted flyovers to assess railway washouts between Ashcroft and North Vancouver for damages.
However, Alghabra said that based on recent feedback from railway operators, the federal government is “optimistic” that rail lines on the Mainland will reopen sometime next week.
“This will be an important step in the recovery of our supply chain and ensuring that essential goods can get to where they need,” he said.
Sunday’s press conference also featured comments from other ministers including Bill Blair, Minister of Emergency Preparedness, who said the federal government is well aware of the seriousness of the situation in British Columbia.
“We know that the overall situation remains serious but there have been some improvements,” he said. “River levels are dropping, highways and rail lines have begun to reopen with priority to the movement of essential goods, major suppliers report there adequate stocks of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel and agriculture feed supply concerns have been temporarily stabilized as well.”
Blair said livestock losses are anticipated to grow over the coming days, but that officials are doing everything they can to mitigate those losses. He also said residents living in border communities in B.C. will be exempt from a required PCR test when travelling to the United States for essential services, such as getting gas.
“This is something that I believe can be accommodated under the exemption regulations that currently exist, but to be very clear, those exemptions do not apply to non-essential travel,” said Blair, stressing that the exemption isn’t for people driving over for family holidays or tourist activities.
Going forward, Blair said the feds are “carefully” watching a storm that is approaching northern British Columbia, which is expected to bring rain and snow to the region.
“We are tracking the weather event that is very likely to strike British Columbia in the northern and central regions and the possibility of rain later through the week, we are working alongside communities to clean up and rebuild and we are making significant progress on the ground,” he said.