North Vancouver City plans for climate change floods

Flood risk for SeaBus, transit hubs

The North Shore can expect flooding, transportation disruptions and an increased demand for emergency services due to climate change, according to a staff report prepared for the City of North Vancouver.

Staff held a panel discussion on Thursday night to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change on the North Shore.

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Although the city approved an ongoing strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in 2005, the focus is now on dealing with existing climate change, said Caroline Jackson, section manager of environmental sustainability at the City of North Vancouver.

"We're already experiencing the impact of climate change and we need to make sure as a community that we're prepared both for now and the future," said Jackson. "We want to build a more resilient city."

Regional temperatures are expected to increase 1.7 degrees Celsius by 2050, according to the report.

The North Shore will likely experience three times as many extreme heat events, which will be a strain on the city's rapidly aging population, said Jackson.

The city is also expecting torrential rains in the fall and less precipitation in the spring and summer, which would have a negative impact on the water supply, she said.

According to provincial guidelines, the city should also be planning for a halfmetre rise in the sea level by 2050, which would flood coastal and creek areas, she said.

The North Shore will be particularly vulnerable to transportation disruptions because of its dependence on the SeaBus, low-lying transit hubs and bridges spanning the Burrard Inlet, all of which are at risk of flooding, the report said.

More severe weather might also reduce transit use because increasing summer temperatures and more rain in the winter would make waiting outdoors more uncomfortable, possibly leading to more trips by car or a loss of mobility for vulnerable populations, the report said.

Undersized stormwater sewers and buildings below flood levels could also present a sizable risk for the city, according to the report.

Jackson hopes that raising awareness of climate change will help people cope with emergencies.

"We're expecting more power outages, so we're hoping folks will be prepared," she said.

To adapt to climate change, the city needs to improve its emergency response system, upgrade its sewer and drainage systems and ensure that vulnerable populations are properly planned for, said Deborah Harford, a panel speaker and executive director of the SFU Climate Change Team.

"The encouraging thing is that cities around the world are responding to these issues and there's lots of collaboration and learning opportunities from other places," she said.

"For example, innovative urban designs in Copenhagen deal with torrential downpours by turning parts of some roads into rivers, and parks into lakes," she said. "They're trying to transform what right now seems to us to be a sort of crisis into a source of new urban esthetic and beauty."

Staff recommendations on how to deal with climate change will be released to council in a draft report next month.

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