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Yarborough Pumping Station is final piece of City’s flood mitigation puzzle

Posted: Friday, October 13, 2023. 8:23 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: It has been regularly said that Belize City is below water and thus a victim of occasional heavy floods from rain, occasionally exacerbated by tropical weather systems.

But for a decade, the Inter-American Development Bank and Belize City Council, along with the Ministry of Works (now Infrastructure Development and Housing), have been putting in place various constructions on both sides of town to alleviate flooding conditions. They have built a new canal through Cinderella Plaza; fixed drains in the Belama area; rebuilt Orange, King and Dean Streets, and installed sluice gates along the East and Collet Canals and South Creek, which link from the Haulover Creek to the Caribbean Sea. There were also works done on Caye Caulker and Goff’s Caye.

The final piece of the puzzle was locked in place with the inauguration of a pumping station at the sea exit to the Collet Canal overlooking Yarborough Bridge. As Minister Julius Espat explained, “We don’t have a choice…since when we were born to now the environment has changed. The storms are stronger; we have more population in the City and so we have to look at all angles how to solve…this is just one of many proposals to be put in place to help Belize City.” He continued that options are being explored to try to divert flood waters before they reach the City, but to meet the standards seen in the likes of the Netherlands it would take a lot of money.

The next issue to maintain the $10 million project is how to obtain finance for maintenance, which will cost an estimated $750,000 per year. That will be the role of the City Council, according to Espat, who must come up with the formula and submit the proposal to Central Government – something seen to be much easier when one political party controls them, but not always easy to navigate.

But how does it work? According to program coordinator Rolando Chan, the gates at Conch Shell Bay, East Canal between Water Lane and Regent Street West, at Kut Avenue, and at the station itself are automated to lock heavy waters coming from the Haulover and allow excess waters from rains in the canals to be pumped away into the sea via a series of Archimedes screws which lift it up. It also transformed the Yabra area where there was a ton of sludge behind the bridge. There are also a series of bathrooms to discourage dumping raw sewage into the canals themselves.

Work began in 2018 under a United Democratic Party government but Deputy Prime Minister Cordel Hyde maintains that this is a Belize project that will benefit it all. The Ministry will continue management of the project for a year in transition to City Hall.

 

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