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

Archive for the ‘flood watch’ Category

What this place is going to look like

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I have been seeing links to this report in various places. But not, so far anyway, this map.download

So just to let you know, I got the information about this map from Next City. And after I got a download of the screenshot above this communication from climatecentral.org came by email

If you have received this email, you recently downloaded a map image from Surging Seas: Mapping Choices. You have our permission to use this image as you wish, provided that you cite Climate Central, provide a link to http://choices.climatecentral.org/ if the image is used online, and adhere to our terms of use.

In addition, we encourage journalists and stakeholders to view, download, embed, broadcast or otherwise use these additional materials created by Climate Central, according to our same terms of use:

  • photo-realistic sea level images that you can easily embed on your site, or broadcast, with attribution. Or download the same hi-res images via this page
  • Google Earth ‘3D fly-over’ video tours showing effects of sea level rise on global cities under contrasting warming scenarios
  • our global report with statistics for cities around the world, including analysis of population on implicated land
  • interview clips with lead scientist Dr. Benjamin Strauss

If you do so, we simply ask that you provide a credit to Climate Central, and include a link to us (sealevel.climatecentral.org) when posting online.

So, having done that I think I have fulfilled any obligation I incurred. I am a bit surprised, and disappointed, that there does not seem to have been much take up of this information by the mainstream media. And that some of the links I have followed that seemed to address the report did show just how so much of Metro Vancouver is going to be under water. So I hope that this posting will inspire some better efforts by the people who read this blog.

The subject matter has, of course, been covered here in the past. And my frustration that, when I lived in Richmond, there seemed to be such a complacent attitude towards sea level rise.

Written by Stephen Rees

November 17, 2015 at 10:05 am

Plan for deeper dredging in Fraser River has high environmental price

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Steveston Ladner Canoe Pass and Mt Baker 2007_0710_1058

The story comes from Business in Vancouver and has a very even handed approach. I adapted their headline to be less even handed since I feel somewhat incensed by the behaviour of the Port Authority. As are the Voters Taking Action Against Climate Change. And it is also worth I think reframing this argument not so much about saving the planet as saving the place where we live from the inevitable consequences. It is not that dredging of the Fraser “may” reduce the protection provided by the wetlands. The mechanism described by Michael Church is readily apparent. The Port of course chooses to ignore it.

The problem is that the Port Authority has a very limited remit and no responsibility at all to the community within which it operates. The current Board’s view is that they only have to satisfy the “stakeholders” of whom the port businesses are about the only ones that get any attention. In exactly the same way the business in general is dealing with climate change – hoping it will go away or someone else will solve it cheaply and at public rather than business expense, all the while ensuring the greatest possible rate of return on capital employed for the shareholders rather than the stakeholders. It is this fundamental misconception – that the economy is somehow more important than the environment – that is the heart of the problem. A different kind of government in Ottawa could easily change this perception. We  – the people of Canada – are in fact the shareholders of the Port. But our government – at all levels – chooses to ignore that and places the interest of short term financial profits above all else. Including the impact of tidal surges on the population of Richmond, where urban development was allowed against all common sense and the regional plan.

This blog has often commented on the port and Richmond. When I lived there I felt personally threatened. No I no longer live there its a more academic exercise – but I still feel that we ought to have public agencies that are acutely conscious of their broader responsibilities. A business like approach is NOT appropriate in any Public Corporation. That is why it is in the public sector, not the private. If all that mattered was profit, then it could be privatized. But even our right wing governments realize that there are public interests in controlling the operations of ports – and all the other kinds of transportation and its associated infrastructure.

It is hardly surprising now that people here do not see the decision to downgrade the protection afforded to whales not as scientifically driven (when has the Harper Government ever paid any attention to science?) but as a spectacularly inept gift to the oil for export lobby. The timing alone is terrible, but when they have a secure parliamentary majority, and the polls trending once again in their favour, what do they care about optics? On the other hand they have finally decided to something about DOT111 tank cars: what a shame it took the deaths of so many people fo force them into action. Whatever happened to the precautionary principle? I would take that approach to dredging deeper in the Fraser. If for no other reason than every dredging operation I have been in touch with was always temporary – since each time you dredge a hole it fills up again. As any kid with a bucket and spade at the beach will tell you.

The Dykes and Sea Level Rise

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The main stream media are reporting the release of a new BC government report – instead of sending you to a paywalled site (one of the reasons there is less on this blog lately is I have made a commitment to my readers not to do that) here is the local CBC as one example

Screen Shot 2012-12-11 at 12.26.17 PM

The network of dikes protecting Metro Vancouver will require billions of dollars in upgrades in coming years because of rising sea levels,according to a new report issued by the B.C. government.

The cost of dike improvements over the next 90 to 100 years could hit $9.5 billion, according to a report released today by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

Well that was going to be a relief until I read a bit further.

It followed a 2011 report which predicted a sea level rise of one metre along B.C.’s coast by the turn of the next century.

Which is not comforting at all when you consider that the (US) National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s latest assessment was that sea level rise could reach 6.6ft – or two metres – by 2100. But not, apparently, in the Pacific North West according to the side bar in this US Today story

I have had a new book “High Tide on Main Street” on my reading pile for a while now – since superstorm Sandy raised awareness of things like king tides. But I must admit I feel a bit out of my depth [groan] so I have not really felt able to post a review on it – yet.

I am not at all an expert in this area, but for as long as I have lived in Richmond I have wondered about the adequacy of the dyke system – and I have never found the attitudes of the local politicians especially comforting. Complacency has no place in this issue, as far as I am concerned.

No 1 Road North Drainage Pump Station Renovation

Works currently underway in Richmond on the
No 1 Road North Drainage Pump Station Renovation

Written by Stephen Rees

December 11, 2012 at 12:48 pm

Risk of Disastrous Flooding

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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

How global warming might transform Vancouver’s shoreline

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Georgia Strait

A team of three from Bing Thom architects what a two metre and a seven metre sea level rise looks like for Vancouver. Useful, but not nearly enough. How hard would it have been to do the region while they were at it? The low lying areas are, mostly, outside the City of Vancouver in the delta of the Fraser River – and quite a lot of the Fraser Valley too. This is something that I have worried about here more than once. At least the article does cover my concerns – to some extent

Richmond city council has already approved a flood-protection management strategy through to 2031. According to a 2009 report to council by the city’s director of engineering, John Irving, the city owns and operates 49 kilometres of dikes on Lulu Island.

“While there currently is not a Provincial sea level rise policy in place, the Province has indicated in recent correspondence that current construction around dikes should allow for future dike raising to address a 1.2 metre sea level rise by the year 2100,” Irving wrote.

Later in the report, he added: “Given the fact that sea level rise is taking place in the absence of a Provincial policy, staff have been proactively proceeding with dike upgrades since 2005 based on an allowance of 0.5-metre over and above the current Provincial requirement.”

The cost of doing this would be $28.2 million, according to Irving’s report, which noted that raising the dikes to address a sea-level rise of 1.2 metres would increase the cost.

There has also been some research at the regional level.  …

The federal and provincial governments published a document in December 2008 listing three scenarios for sea-level changes in B.C. The “extreme low” analysis estimated that the Fraser River Delta will see a 35-centimetre rise by the end of the century. The “mean” estimate was a 50-centimetre increase, and the “extreme high” prediction was for a 1.2-metre jump in sea level by 2100.

Now the interesting figures are those predictions. So why did the Bing Thom team go for much bigger sea level rises  than the governments?

Heeney, Keenan, and Yan recently visited the Georgia Straight office to talk about their work, which examined the impact of sea level rising in one-metre increments up to seven metres. Yan described their research as a “tool kit and an atlas for discussion”.

So the while the consensus used by governments here seems to be 1.5 metres by the end of the century, the tool kit at least allows Vancouver residents to see what might happen if that turns out to be a conservative estimate.

The trio from Bing Thom Architects said they’re not climate scientists, and their intention isn’t to provide all the answers. Instead, they hope that their maps tracking the impact of sea-level increases will lead to better planning decisions in the future. “This is to aid in the discussion so that people can see these implications,” Heeney said.

Well, I think we need to see those implications for the impact of salt water ingress on agricultural land behind the (raised) dykes. Also for the implications on the Gateway projects like port expansion and the SFPR – which runs along the shore of the South Arm.

The firm was able to conduct this research thanks to the city’s open-data catalogue, which makes information about the shoreline available on the city’s Web site.

So why is there no equivalent data set for the rest of the region – especially those areas which are clearly far more vulnerable?

Written by Stephen Rees

March 18, 2010 at 9:22 am

Posted in flood watch

Tagged with

UPDATE Richmond Dykes

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There is a short story in the Richmond Review paper edition that is not on their web site

Since it relates directly to a topic recently discussed here I am going to copy type the relevant paragraphs

Middle Arm Dyke to rise half a metre

The Middle Arm of the Fraser will get millions of dollars in additional flood protection now that the green light has been given to a series of major dyke infrastructure upgrades in the city.

$2.4 million will be spent on bolstering more than 750 metres of dyke between Cambie Road and Hollybridge Way. Plans call for the dyke top be raised about half a metre, concrete floodwall retaining structures will be added, and rip-rap armouring will reinforce the river face of the dyke.

Some $4.8 million in funding – from the city, province and Ottawa – will be spent on upgrades to the No 4 Road drainage pump station.

This is a small sum for a small raise to a small percentage of the dyke. The rip rap is needed to reduce the impact of wash from passing vessels. The pump station is not on Middle Arm and is some distance from the area of dyke raising, so is really a separate project. Pumps get rid of water from behind the dyke.

Middle Arm dyke at Hollybridge Way

Middle Arm dyke at Hollybridge Way

Written by Stephen Rees

October 23, 2009 at 12:01 pm

Posted in flood watch

Tagged with

Sinking river delta could mean trouble along Fraser

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Peace Arch News

Steveston Ladner Canoe Pass and Mt Baker 2007_0710_1058

This issue has been bothering me for a while now – as posts to this blog will attest.

The cause in the Fraser delta is that dikes, constructed to prevent flooding, force the river to carry its sediment load out into the Strait of Georgia so that none accumulates on deltaic lands. The delta is also sinking one to two milimetres each year under its own weight.

The survey data suggest that, by the end of this century, it will have sunk by more than a metre (130 centimetres), with the effects reaching as far upstream as Maple Ridge and Fort Langley. As elsewhere, a rise in sea level will accentuate the problem.

The warning about the Fraser river delta is coming from Canada’s Geological Survey but is replicated by  satellite data, coupled with historic records, on many of the world’s deltas. Add rising sea levels due to global climate change, and our vulnerability to seismic activity and we have a recipe for disaster.

Roy Strang raises the same questions I have been asking

If these data are accurate and reliable, and one adds in the consequences of seismic liquefaction in the event of an earthquake, what is the future for the Vancouver airport and Richmond? Were such eventualities considered when expansion of Deltaport or the controversial South Fraser Perimeter Road were being planned? Are there contingency plans, or is the horizon too distant to be a concern for today’s politicians?

He does not answer these questions and the article then drifts off into other things. The only official comments I have seen recently came from Malcolm Brodie, the Mayor of Richmond. Which were simply a recitation of his complacency about the strength of our dykes.

I rather suspect that the boosters who have been so keen on expansion of the port and the airport have been deliberately quiet about these risks. But I do know that when emergency planners at the then GVRD assessed these risks during the period when the LRSP was being drawn up, advised that development should be directed away from flood risk areas. That is why Richmond was not part of the Growth Concentration Area. And of course the fact that the land was of very high agricultural quality was also a reason for not building on it. Indeed, protection of the Richmond farmland which had not already vanished under subdivisions was one of the main reasons for the creation of the ALR.

Of course ALR designation means nothing to the Port of Vancouver, who are happily buying up farmland to store containers on or to sell for industrial development. And the province is so taken with the huge land development profits consequent upon the SFPR that any considerations like food security, critical habitat or even carbon capture by bog lands have been steadily ignored. Or even denied. So flood risk is just another one of those tiresome objections to be swept under the carpet so the BC Liberal party supporters can go on making lots of money – which is all that matters as far as they are concerned.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 1, 2009 at 8:52 am