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Vancouver explores flood protection options due to rising sea levels

Local sea levels are projected to rise by as much as one metre in the next 100 years

Vancouver’s False Creek neighbourhood is in danger of being flooded when sea levels rise.

Jennifer Gauthier / Metro Order this photo

Vancouver’s False Creek neighbourhood is in danger of being flooded when sea levels rise.

The City of Vancouver is exploring ways to protect the area from flooding because local sea levels are projected to rise by as much as one metre in the next 100 years.

City staff will present its flood assessment report to council next Wednesday. It explores several options to protect the city from flood including barriers like dykes and sea gates, adaptive measures like changing building codes, and even retreating from low-laying areas altogether.

But asking people to leave their homes is a less likely scenario, said Tamsin Mills, senior sustainability specialist at the City of Vancouver.

“There is a preference for options that are adaptable over time given the uncertainty at the rate of sea level rise.”

For instance, installing a sea gate doesn’t allow for much adaptability, she said.

“We have information from others internationally that have built gates and those are less flexible.”

A best-case scenario would involve gradually raising infrastructure like seawalls over time in order to both improve public space and accommodate rising sea levels, she said.

City staff plan to conduct public consultation on the different available options starting next year.

The city is not in immediate danger from floods but annual king tides, which happen every winter, are good reminders of the kind of damage flooding can create, said Mills.

“During king tides…that’s an indication of where everyday water levels can be in the future.” 

Rising sea levels and flooding could create damages worth anywhere from $19 to $32 billion if governments do not take proactive measures, according to the Fraser Basin Council.

“The massive costs and damages to Vancouver resulting from climate change and sea level rise can’t be ignored," said Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson in a written release.

“Sitting on the sidelines is not an option while climate change threatens our future. By taking action today to protect our land, environment, people’s homes, and our iconic landmarks from climate change impacts, we’re making our city more resilient and saving billions of dollars in the long run.”

Areas vulnerable to flooding

  • Fraser River
  • False Creek and Flats
  • Point Grey Road
  • Southlands
  • Waterfront Road area
  • New Brighton Park
  • Jericho-Spanish Banks/Locarno
  • West End/Stanley Park
  • Port lands
  • Kitsilano
  • Coal Harbour

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