Interior farmer hit by flooding in both Merritt and Abbotsford | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Interior farmer hit by flooding in both Merritt and Abbotsford

A cow in water after Matt Vanderveen's dairy farm was flooded last week in Sumas Prarie.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Matt Vanderveen

A farmer with plans to start a dairy farm outside of Merritt has suffered significant losses after catastrophic flooding damaged both of his properties, one in the Interior and one in the Lower Mainland.

Matt Vanderveen has a ranch along Highway 8 near Dot Ranch Cut-Off Road outside of Merritt. This past summer his property was ravaged by the Lytton Creek wildfire which resulted in his ranch manager to losing his home.

Last week, flooding of the Nicola River washed away part of his property but he can’t go see it since his Abbotsford dairy farm is also flooded.

Highway 8 has been significantly damaged by flooding. B.C. Hydro officials said roughly 80 power poles in the area have been lost and the challenge for them is that there’s no longer land left to place new ones.

READ MORE: “Extensive damage’ done to B.C. Hydro lines, poles due to flooding in Merritt

“It’s pretty bad out there, there’s lots of highway missing that’s for sure. We had some property get washed away,” Vanderveen said. “There is extensive damage that way.”

His ranch manager is able to get into Merritt using a mountain road which is fine until there’s snow, he said. They’re currently using a generator for power at the property and can only communicate by using a satellite.

In Abbotsford at his dairy farm, flooding also caused Vanderveen to evacuate from the Sumas Prairie to Chilliwack. He had to leave his cows but all 80 of them survived.

“Cows were standing in water but it was only in eight inches of water so it wasn’t too deep," he said.

They lost some equipment for milking but he has been able to get the remainder of the equipment running again. He used a helicopter to get back into the property on Wednesday, Nov. 17.

“There’s people that have had it so much worse than us, they’ve lost hundreds of cows, it’s bad,” he said. “Our focus is on this place, we don’t have any animals at the property on Highway 8 so it’s about making sure (the ranch manager) and his family are safe.”

READ MORE: B.C. reopens major section of flood-damaged Trans-Canada Highway in Fraser Valley

Vanderveen still wants to start a dairy farm in the Interior but for now there’s no time frame on when that could happen.

His neighbours at Bar FX Ranch have lost a significant amount of property due to the flooding, he said.

Rhonda MacDonald and her husband Wayne own the ranch.

“We have lost about one-quarter of one hayfield, the land is gone,” Rhonda said, adding three irrigation pump houses and their winter stockpile of hay have also washed away.

“We saved all of our cows and horses. We are getting a lot of help from the Ministry of Agriculture, they are instrumental in organizing extra feed for the cattle, a road out as we are stranded,” she said.

She isn’t sure if ranching will be viable in the future as flooding caused the Nicola River to change its path and the new route is headed straight for her house. It depends on whether the river can be moved to its former location, she said.

Owner of Bar FX Ranch Rhonda MacDonald (right) hugs her friend Angela following a flood event last week that caused significant property loss to the ranch.
Owner of Bar FX Ranch Rhonda MacDonald (right) hugs her friend Angela following a flood event last week that caused significant property loss to the ranch.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Julie Smith

The Nicola River, which runs along flood-damaged Highway 8, has left some farms underwater.

Steven Rice, director with the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, said it could be years before some residents of Spences Bridge can return home after flooding and a mudslide hit the area.

READ MORE: Spences Bridge residents worry about long-term future after flooding: official

Rice, who is a farmer in the area, said he and many other residents were forced to flee their properties with little more than the clothes on their backs.

The flooding hit on Nov. 15, with a subsequent mudslide wiping out the highway and destroying or damaging dozens of properties in the area.

 — With files from The Canadian Press

To contact a reporter for this story, email Carli Berry or call 250-864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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