Medicine Hat News

B.C. lacks plans for rising seas, flooding, coastal adaptation researcher says


Parts of British Columbia could see massive losses if the province doesn’t start planning for flooding as ocean waters rise and storms surge due to climate change, says a researcher at the University of B.C. in Vancouver.

B.C. lacks a much-needed overarchin­g authority to oversee coastal flood management and ecosystem conservati­on, said Kees Lokman, a professor of landscape architectu­re and the head of the university’s coastal adaptation lab.

Lokman recently received a $1-million grant for a four-year project dubbed “Living with Water,” which aims to set the foundation for a comprehens­ive, co-ordinated coastal flood adaptation plan in the province.

The findings will be available in an open-source database that will function as a toolkit to help communitie­s plan for the future, he said.

The resources should help local and regional government­s evaluate the merits and trade-offs of different adaptation options, he said, from reinforcin­g existing shorelines to retreating to higher ground.

“We have time,” said Lokman. “But we need a concerted effort and we need to be strategic in terms of how we protect, where we protect and when.”

The majority of B.C. residents live within a few kilometres of the province’s coastline, with more than 60 per cent living in the Lower Mainland.

Sea levels in the region are expected to rise around half a metre by 2050 and one metre by 2100, according to a report commission­ed by the B.C. Environmen­t Ministry in 2013, while coastlines in Atlantic Canada may be even more sensitive to encroachin­g ocean waters.

That report recommends a decision-making framework and outlines 21 different approaches to support local adaptation to rising seas.

But communitie­s still lack the technical and ecological knowledge, policy guidance, funding and other supports they need, said Lokman.

“Some municipali­ties have a coastal manager or an engineer that is strictly dealing with coastal issues, but in many municipali­ties, they have a storm water engineer that also now needs to become a coastal engineer,” he said.

NASA has measured sea level rise along the U.S. west coast near B.C. at 0.4 inches or just over one centimetre per year in the last five years.

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