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

Archive for the ‘flood watch’ Category

Climate change ‘seriously underestimated’ by UN

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The United Nations’ celebrated climate change panel has “seriously underestimated” the challenge of curbing global CO2 emissions, say Canadian and U.S. researchers.

Radical “decarbonization” of the global energy system is needed to stabilize emissions — a task that is much more daunting than the panel has led the world to believe, the researchers report in journal Nature today.

“The size of this technology challenge has been seriously underestimated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,” say economist Christopher Green at McGill University in Montreal and his U.S. colleagues. The IPCC shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore for its work, showing how human activities are warming the climate system, with potentially catastrophic consequences.

And I thought the big issue was fighting the climate change deniers. It turns out that the growth of China and India has been much faster than anticipated. Now it seem to me that we also need to direct attention toward the fact that we were supposed to be doing something about this – and we haven’t. So not only is there faster growth in the developing world, but the developed world has, in general, shrugged and gone on as before. And Canada made all kinds of “commitments” which we did nothing about keeping: which pretty much sums up our foreign policy in general. Ask Mr Harper what he thinks and he will talk about the need for more economic growth for Alberta to offset the industrial decline in Ontario.

And I still see no plan of action to raise the Fraser dykes.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 3, 2008 at 8:16 am

We Need More Dikes! Or Do We?

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:: News ::

An interesting examination of alternatives to raising the dykes – or building more of them. As practiced in the Netherlands, where the entire country is in a similar situation to the Lower Mainland

The new strategy has a descriptive name. It’s called “Room for the River.” The name captures the essence of a nine-year, €2.2 billion (C$3.4 billion) program to give the Rhine delta’s residents better protection from future floods while improving the aquatic and riparian environment by, as the name implies, giving the periodic flows of high water more room to spread out over portions of the river’s historic floodplain.

It’s being done several ways:

  • Where it can be done without harming healthy ecosystems, foreshore areas between the river and dikes are being excavated to lower their level and leave more room to hold floodwater.
  • A dozen dikes are being moved further away from the river, again to give the Rhine room to flood; some homes and buildings will be torn down to accommodate the realignment.
  • Land along an upstream reach of the Dutch portion of the river is being set aside as a “last-resort retention area” that will be flooded in extreme high-water emergencies.

And similar strategies are in place elsewhere. Even in the United States

Florida, on its Kissimmee River, and Wisconsin on its Menominee, have implemented similar strategies. After the worst flood ever on the Mississippi, when it breached its levees in some 500 places in 1993, killing 50 people and doing C$18 billion worth of damage, a federal study group recommended giving the Old Man River more room to spread out in future floods …

So have we looked at it?

Making room for rivers to do what comes naturally when their waters run high is neither rocket science nor a novel concept. But remarkably it appears to have been given little if any serious consideration in British Columbia. “I’m not sure how much it’s been looked at,” Steve Litke, the program officer in charge of coordinating flood research and planning at the Fraser Basin Council, confided. “I haven’t seen anything in the last five or 10 years that I’ve been here.”

Why am I not surprised?

Written by Stephen Rees

May 28, 2007 at 9:33 am

Posted in flood watch

Rush Job on Dikes: ‘Band-aids’

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:: News ::

This is one of those stories that you just hope is not prophetic. I am hoping that the great flood of 2007 will turn out to be as bad as the y2k disaster that never happened.

At least there is evidence of things happening – in communities outside of Richmond. We seem to be continuing in our complacency, which I trust is not misplaced. On Westham Island rip rap has been placed on the dyke north of Canoe Pass Bridge, and some gravel added to the top. A few concrete blocks have appeared at the bridge foot too, but without the plastic wrapping that is being used in New Westminster. But in Coquitlam, near the Port Mann Bridge, there is no evidence of anything being done. Here there has been a lot of development of “industrial parks” (what a lovely oxymoron) in recent years so I suppose the work has already been done.

Lock Blocks and sandbags

Written by Stephen Rees

May 23, 2007 at 9:23 am

Posted in flood watch

“Richmond at Risk, UN Flood report warns”

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By Martin van den Hemel
Staff Reporter

Apr 28 2007

Climate change due to global warming places Richmond at risk of flooding as the sea level rises, warns a United Nations report that’s expected to be released next Friday.

The report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change names Richmond and Charlottetown, P.E.I., as vulnerable centres in Canada, according to Don Forbes, a research scientist with Natural Resources Canada. Forbes is one of the lead authors of the chapter in the U.N. report—expected to be released during a press conference in Bangkok on May 4—that refers to Canada.

Because of the odd way the Richmond Review web pages work it is worth quoting quite a bit of this story in case it isn’t there when you want to refer to it.

What must also be factored in, Forbes said, is land subsidence, the dropping of the ground level due to settling and other factors over time.

Richmond’s dykes have been designed to a statistical analysis of what water levels have been historically, and that planning mindset needs to change, Forbes said.

“The change in thinking that has to happen is that the engineering profession has to think in terms of the climate, the water level statistics not being constant, but being on an upward trend.”

And in a nice bit of timing, given His Honour’s latest photo op assuring the populace that the current high level of the snow pack does not mean we need more money from the province (with much scrambling in places like Delta (seen below) and Pitt Meadows to raise their dykes)

Dyke Works Westham Island 2007_0511

University of Western Ontario professor Gordon McBean said Richmond’s dykes need to be fortified and raised to account for a gradual sea level rise of up to 60 centimetres, or nearly two feet, this century. McBean chairs the International Scientific Committee for the World Climate Research Programme.

“That should be part of their planning premise. It’s called an adaptation strategy,” the former Lower Mainland resident said.

News of the United Nations report broke April 20, the same day the city held a press conference to reassure Richmond residents that the city is prepared for flooding threats.

So are we actually doing much about this threat?

Terry Crowe, manager of policy planning for the City of Richmond, said it will be extremely costly over the coming decades to protect the city from flooding. But the city is tapping into the latest science and preparing for the climactic changes to come.

Not only are dykes going to be built higher, but they may also need to be widened, he said.

Despite the annual steps to maintain, test and reinforce the dykes, the cost over the coming decades has been estimated at $91 million. A proposed mid-island dike could cost $16 million.

Crowe said a good strategy involves a range of things, and the city is, among other things, requiring that new homes be built a little higher than normal, and adjusting entire neighbourhoods, such as West Cambie, when it’s appropriate.

So I take that as a “no” – Crowe seems to recognize that we need to do a lot more than we currently have planned but he expects resistance from those who will be worried about the cost. But we citizens cannot buy flood insurance. It’s all very well bleating about the cost, but I suspect that it won’t be the City on the hook for the disaster relief funds – that will be the province. And if the flooding is widespread then don’t expect that provincial funds will cover more than a percentage of the loss. And those houses that are ” a little higher than normal” also put up the chances that local flooding of older homes will be much more severe. Notice too that the new houses cover much of their plot in either building or hard surfaces for parking, reducing the amount of soil to absorb rainfall and increasing run off and hence the pressure on the ditches and pumps we all rely on to stay dry.

And it is too late now to reflect on what the studies prior to the LRSP said about building in flood prone areas. Because we have and a lot of people live here now and not all of them are on the upper floors of high rises. So they will be ok for a while, but I doubt they will be able to use their elevators – or their HVAC or lighting either. Not too sure about drinking water either.

And all this makes the article I found on the Tyee seem prescient – it was published on August 10, 2006

UPDATE June 11, 2007 

The immediate risk seems to have passed but to keep up to date the City now has a flood watch web page 

Written by Stephen Rees

April 29, 2007 at 8:22 pm