A major Lower Mainland flood could cost $30 billion

The Lower Mainland Flood Management Strategy Phase 1 Summary Report analyzes a range of scenarios
The Lower Mainland Flood Management Strategy Phase 1 Summary Report analyzes a range of scenarios

Study analyzes potential losses to property, infrastructure, business and trade

A analysis commissioned by the Fraser Basin Council estimates that if a major Fraser River or coastal flood were to occur between now and 2100, it would be the most costly natural disaster in Canadian history—three to five times more than the 2013 Alberta floods—and could result in $20 billion to $30 billion in damage to residential, commercial, industrial and public/institutional buildings, infrastructure, agriculture and interruptions in cargo shipping at Vancouver’s port.

The risk of flooding in the Lower Mainland is expected to increase due to rising sea level, storm surge, extreme rainfall and changes in river hydrology. In B.C., the base sea level is projected to rise by about one metre by 2100 and possibly higher after that.

An assessment of 74 dikes found that 71 per cent are vulnerable to failure during either a major coastal or Fraser River flood. Coastal flooding results from winter storms combined with high tides, typically lasts a few days and applies to the entire coastal area from Squamish to White Rock. Fraser River freshet flooding typically occurs in May or June during periods of high runoff generated from snowmelt and rainfall. Some areas are at risk for both (Richmond, Delta, Surrey and New Westminster). The study projected economic losses for both types of flooding occurring either now or in 2100.

The analysis of flood scenarios, flood risks and current flood protection was part of Phase 1 of the Lower Mainland Flood Management Strategy produced for 43 government (federal, provincial and municipal) and private sector partners. Phase 2 will focus on developing a regional flood action plan by 2018, including a cost-sharing proposal for flood protection.

“Flood management is of primary concern to the province, which is why the 2016 B.C. budget allocated $50 million to flood-related projects in communities all across B.C.,” said B.C. Minister of State for Emergency Preparedness Naomi Yamamoto in a release. “The report by the Fraser Basin Council reflects the real risk, and B.C. is responding with real, tangible measures, including a $1-million funding investment toward the council’s second phase of identifying solutions to meet the identified challenges.”

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