Poor Fraser River Climate Change Prep Could Cost $50 Billion

Fraser River | BCBusiness

Study pegs the costs of environmental threats facing the Fraser River at $50 billion

The Fraser River and its surrounding region face a significant and immediate threat from climate change, concluded a report released Tuesday, commissioned by the Richmond Chamber of Commerce (RCOC) in conjunction with the provincial government and twelve other Lower Mainland business associations.
Without a serious climate change strategy and adequate funding, “the Lower Fraser River is heading for potential economic, environmental and social disaster,” said the report’s head author Dave Park. “With 300,000 people in the flood plain—and another one million expected to live in the region by 2040—the risks are too great to ignore.”
Sea levels are expected to rise by one metre by the end of the century, threatening the $50 billion worth of development lying within the Fraser’s floodplain, according to the report. That includes the port, its facilities, the cities of Richmond and Delta, and the region’s dwindling supply of industrial land.
Damage from a major dike failure could cost “tens of billions of dollars” according to the report.
The current estimated cost for diking upgrades required to stave off sea level rise by 2100 tops $9 billion, said co-author Matt Pitcairn, manager of policy and communications at the RCOC.
Moreover, in the near future the Fraser’s tidal-zone dikes may not be able to contain high-tide storm surges or springtime “freshets” during El Nino years.
The report also laid out the threat of climate change to the Fraser River fishery, a source of significant cultural and economic importance to the region. Often teeming with sockeye salmon in late summer and a small number of white sturgeon, the fisheries support a commercial and sport industry that generates around $10 million a season.
Furthermore, the Fraser Valley’s reserve of agricultural land generates $1.6 billion of gross receipts, or more than 62 per cent of the province’s total.
“The Lower Fraser River has the power to affect the Lower Mainland, for better or worse,” concludes the report, and the consequences for poor climate change preparation “would have dramatic effects on the entire region.”