Huge tab to fix Fraser flooding
The main CPR line was washed out in the Fraser Valley during the devastating flood of 1894 — the largest one on the river in recorded history. Edwards Brothers, Vancouver Public LibraryJames Skitt Matthews, Vancouver Archives
The cost of doing nothing is estimated at $50 billion.
That statement, in a report by local business groups, refers to the potential damage that could be inflicted by massive flooding in the Lower Mainland — affecting 300,000 people and countless businesses.
“Sections of Trans-Canada Highway, parts located in the flood plain, rail-lines, the port, the airport, telecommunications infrastrucutre, energy infrastructure, ecetera,” said Steve Litke, senior program manager at the Fraser Basin Council.
The report is talking about the nine harbours that shelter many of the region’s fishing vessels, potential damage in agricultural land, the impacts on critical infrastructure such river crossings, the forestry industry, which relies on the river for transporting products — and potentially whole communities.
And it’s predicted that a devastating flood, such as the one that swept the lower Fraser River region in 1894, could happen as frequently as once every 50 years — not once in 500 years as previously thought.
“Under an intense climate change scenario, current science would anticipate that that may occur much more freqently,” Litke said.
Report authors anticipate it would take $9 billion to prepare. Building better dikes, seawalls, properly dredging, or even diverting water away are options.
Litke said many municipalities in the flood zone have already prepared their own strategies. However, these plans are fragmented and need to be co-ordinated as a regional strategy.
For example, the City of Richmond has been taking steps to protect its historic community of Steveston, namely by upgrading storm protection for a harbour — and sacrificing a portion of a park to the sea.
But other areas such as the gravel reach between Hope and Mission have flood protection levels below provincial standards, Litke warned.
It’s collaborating those fragmented pieces of information, identifying vulnerabilities and flood hazards that would mark the first steps of a strategy to brace the Lower Mainland against El Nino.