The Tides Have Changed
In 2011 the climate action secretariat of the British Columbia Ministry of Environment gave a presentation entitled “Managing the Unavoidable: Preparing for Sea Level Rise in BC.” It predicts that British Columbia will see a one-metre rise in sea levels by 2100. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimates that Vancouver will see $55 billion in assets and 320,000 people exposed to the effects and damages of a dramatic change in sea level.
In anticipation of these rising sea levels, city officials released a map of Metro Vancouver that designates many of the city’s most expensive and densely developed waterfront neighbourhoods – such as False Creek, the north arm of the Fraser River, and parts of Point Grey, Kitsilano, English Bay, and land along Burrard Inlet – as floodplains. This means that these areas are subject to a recently amended bylaw that raises the level of construction for any new homes by roughly one metre (to a total of 4.6 metres). The bylaw only affects new building or major reconstruction projects and will not be retroactive.
This is just one adaptive measure that Vancouver is taking to mitigate the estimated billions of dollars worth of damage to roads, sewers, and property expected from a dramatic change in coastline. But Vancouver has much to learn from other global cities around flood-resilience planning and strategy. Rotterdam, for example, exists below sea level and has transformed the threat of flooding into a catalyst for invention and economic opportunity. The city exports its technologies—including a Flood Control Game called FloodCom that aims to generate solutions to potential crises such as dike failures and sewage overflow—and consults with delegates from low-lying delta cities all over the world, who hope to learn from its experiences.
[Top Image: The tremendous tidal surge of 2012's Superstorm Sandy sucked a roller coaster into the ocean in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. (Stephen Wilkes)]