Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Risk of Disastrous Flooding

with 6 comments

Speakers at a science symposium in Vancouver on Sunday said projections of a one-metre rise in sea level are too conservative – and that continuing international failure to deal with global warming likely means a “multi-metre” rise in ocean height by the end of this century.

That comes from the Vancouver Sun this morning – with all the attention focussed on South Delta. However one paragraph reiterates what this blog has been banging on about for a while now. At least it acknowledges that South Delta is not alone

Delta, with water on three sides, isn’t alone in facing this problem. In Metro Vancouver, 250,000 people live on the delta plain of the Fraser River, including residents of Richmond and most of them are living below the high tide line.

What we need to see is a concerted effort – not just from one or two municipalities – and at the sort of investment level that requires significant funds from senior governments. The feds and province of course are very adept at coming to the aid of communities after the floods have occurred. Last minute efforts at sand bagging by our brave troops and local people always gets the media attention. The general air of smugness that has emanated from Richmond City Hall on this issue up to now should certainly be dissipated.

I suppose the port will need to be involved too since their wharves will be underwater too even if it does mean they will have to worry less about keeping enough water under the ships’ keels.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 20, 2012 at 7:45 am

6 Responses

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  1. There is some risk that this issue is too “long range” for the short political memory that besets us. But some critical thought is required, and that will probably be left to independent thinkers like retired planners, architects and engineers, and a raft of bloggers.

    You’ve mentioned in previous posts, Stephen, that it’s not just rising sea water that Delta, Richmond and huge swaths of the Fraser valley have to worry about, but the infiltration of salt water upwards through the soil profile is already posing a problem as the water table rises along with sea rise.

    What is also worrisome is the potential innundation of thousands of hectares of agricultural land, a resource that is already tremendously undervalued as its full production of food for locals is far from realized because petroluem fuels for transportation and fertilizer feedstock remains cheap. This, plus the fact the soils cannot support the weight of far higher and heavier dikes, doesn’t bode well for the future.

    One solution proposed is to build individual houses on raised pads of fill material. I don’t think this will prove adequate enough if the climate change deniers and their fossilized industry masters win the PR war and decision makers avoid or contimue to delay lowering emissions. That is, the seas will rise higher and higher over the decades as land-based ice melts into the oceans. Six-metre dikes protecting houses built on pads may not be enough.

    It’s time to think about floating these towns and farms.

    PS: You’re at risk of having to moderate climate change denier drones with posts like this. The trolls live to tie up the comments sections.


    February 22, 2012 at 10:08 am

  2. MB

    Yes, my trip to Curitiba was enlightening. I’m glad you enjoyed my essay.

    Jaime’s staff conducted me on tours, generous with hospitality. I learned a lot about how two countries pursue civic affairs: i.e. enlightened planning or backroom, sotto voce, pressure.

    Your AGW comments B surprise me though.

    My scientific reading tells me earth temperatures are never static: Mediaeval warm to Little Ice Age.

    Global Warming Summary (Had/IPCC) . . .

    . . . Scientific Evidence Rejects Anthropogenic CO2 Theory.

    Don’t skim over to find convenient corroborating points.

    The summary commences with, “The global average temperature has increased about 0.8 degrees C in the last 100 years.

    And concludes, ““Thus, even if the United States eliminated all automobiles and all fossil fuel based electricity generation, etc – global GHG would be reduced by only 12%. This massive change would have close to zero effect even if the CO2-theory were true.

    I designed Saint Anne’s Anglican Church, Steveston, in the early ‘80’s. The ground water was barely below the surface: we have known that for decades.

    What more can I say?

    It is your reaction that surprises me. Both you and Steven have revealed emotional baggage wrapped up in this.

    . . . climate change deniers and their fossilized industry masters win the PR war . . .” are you implying I am under the influence (pay) of Big Oil?

    It’s time to think about floating these towns and farms.” Floating towns? Phew, isn’t that premature?

    PS: You’re at risk of having to moderate climate change denier drones with posts like this. The trolls live to tie up the comments sections.

    . . . climate change denier drones . . . Is that what I am now?

    What do you know, definitively about this MB that I do not know? Please enlighten me? I notice Prof Condon of SALA has got his teeth into this, irresponsibly, too: irresponsibly because by the time his students are in the work force the AGW fear will, probably, have blown over.

    Both of you tell me your data and sources: figures please. No name calling no hyperbole, please.

    Roger Kemble

    February 22, 2012 at 4:23 pm

  3. I was surprised to see claims that the sea is going to rise by a meter – I thought that had been disputed or reduced.

    Anyway, if ocean levels rise a meter wouldn’t it be better to move out of areas that are well below sea level? It might sound a bit flippant, but I don’t mean it that way. If we wanted to protect that land from the sea and Fraser River (that is, from nature) we’d have to build some pretty strong dikes pretty far up river. High tide goes up to Mission, I believe, and you can certainly see tidal action in the Pitt River.

    You need strong dikes the whole away, and one breach does away with everything. Remember what the breached dike in New Orleans looked like, and how much damage it did. Those dikes failed because they weren’t maintained. Just wondering.


    February 22, 2012 at 4:50 pm

  4. Roger, let’s not get into the climate change debate here, at least for too long. I’ll be retired in a few years and will then probably host a Web site – not unlike Urbanisimo’s – that will include climate change amongst the other interests I share with various people and will link to the significant number of professional scientific reports, and analyses thereof, and provide much greater elaboration of my stance.

    I don’t know about “emotional baggage”, but I’ve decided to not tolerate semi-literate, churlish rebuttal in the comments sections of certain blogs on topics like this, especially when linked to amateurish sources, or no sources at all. Let me clarify that I do not find your comments on climate change or other topics illiterate; your arguments are usually presented intelligently and with a dash of humour, which I appreciate. But I have to say I find your support of the climate ‘conspiracy’ theory puzzling, especially with your well-thought-out commentary on other topics like planning, urban design, architecture and world finances.

    I also find your latest link not exactly up to the standards that are required to adequately refute ACC. Anyone can right-click-copy-paste anonymously numerous graphs in a posting on a web site or blog and call the cherry-picked info “references”. I know an individual who does this very thing and has constructed an alternate life on-line. But that’s another story.

    Not good enough, I’m afraid. Such postings essentially stop evolving at the blogerrata in the electronic ether rather than mature as their own stand-alone research and accepted reports in top notch scientific journals like Science and Nature where the best climate research is published. Such journals possess a strict policy to have peers extensively review the research and references prior to publication, and invite professional rebuttal, and even rebuttal of the rebuttal.

    I can guess what the result would be if submitted his | their work to Science, especially when the “analysis” is filled with buzz words like “alarmists”, overtly neoconservative political talking points, and extensive ridicule of persons like Al Gore to the point he is almost become a martyr. These do not meet the professional standards, let alone possess the extensive research required to disprove that climate change I caused by human activity. These blogs and Web sites exist as PR mechanisms, and many of them are linked to the oil industry.

    I’ll take the information and conclusions of Nature and Science and publicly-funded climate institutes over the Heartland Institute, Fraser Institute and Appynsis any day. And there are so many research findings backed by measured data that it’s hard not to believe them.

    That is where I choose to place my beliefs, just as you choose to not place yours. Though I disagree with your view, I respect it.


    February 23, 2012 at 6:13 pm

  5. I’ll be retired in a few years and will then probably host a Web site – not unlike Urbanisimo’s – that will include climate change amongst the other interests I share with various people and will link to the significant number of professional scientific reports, and analyses thereof, and provide much greater elaboration of my stance.

    I look forward MB in anticipation . . .

    Roger Kemble

    February 24, 2012 at 11:35 am

  6. Rising water level isn’t the only thing to worry about. Erosion is.
    I lived not far from the Silver Coast in Southwestern France (it is the sandy coast that goes from the common estuary (called the Gironde) of the rivers Dordogne and Garonne all the way to the suburbs of Bayonne in the Pays Basque.
    That coast has been moving back and forth through the centuries by a lot. The sand dunes were somewhat stabilized in the 19th century but they still move inland, slowly but surely, while the coast change shape.
    Former bays have been closed by moving sand dunes and are now lakes. The only bay still open is the Arcachon bay, home to a dozen resorts, some of them very pricey, and keeping the bay open is very expensive.

    Every spring we had to find out at low tide on the 2 or 3 ocean beaches we went to regularly , where the channels parallel to the coast were that year as it was a matter of life and death when swimming or event just waking in the water.

    In my youth there were still quite a few people in the Medoc region that remembered going by horse drawn carriages at the lowest tide each year from the Verdon on the Medoc coast to the Cordouan lighthouse (its base was built in the 16th and 17th century

    That walk hasn’t been possible for many years. Now one must go by boat at low tide but only the island on which the Lighthouse is built is–barely–over the water.

    Villas and numerous WWII German blockhaus have tumbled down the dunes to sea level. One condominium building is Soulac (Medoc region) that was 200 metres away from the coast 50 years ago is now only 10 metres away.
    Houses falling down in the water, or close to, are found all over both US coasts too.

    Having the water level 1 meter higher means that the land underwater will likely not stay there but will eventually move away. The problem with dikes, as they have found in many areas, is that, unless they go for hundreds and hundreds of km, they will stabilize the coast where they are but will drastically increase the erosion further down.
    Building dikes on rocky soil is easy. Building them on sand or marshy soils is very hard, especially by an ocean, as the waves dig in at the base of the shore and pull soil away., bringing it somewhere else way down the coast. A natural shore never keep the same shape from year to year.

    Red frog

    February 27, 2012 at 12:47 am

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