RDN seeking funds for risk assessment of storm-surge flooding, sea level rise

The Regional District of Nanaimo is hoping to conduct further climate adaptation assessment, this time applying for a grant to look at risks related to coastal floodplains.

“Storm-surge flooding presents a greater, more immediate threat to coastal communities than sea level rise alone,” an RDN staff report says. Risks from El Niño, La Niña and seasonal king tides are expected to increase as sea levels rise. The RDN says 74 per cent of the region’s population reside in coastal cities, towns and rural areas as well as millions of dollars of critical infrastructure.

In 2019, the RDN completed an all hazard risk and vulnerability analysis and from 2018-21 completed coastal flood hazard mapping and has nearly completed river flood hazard mapping. The 2019 analysis provided a high-level assessment and subsequent studies have been “designed to drill down to what this means at a regional and community level,” said Jamai Schile, RDN senior planner for long-range planning. The coastal flood hazard mapping helped the regional district understand hazards under different scenarios in both the present day and future, such as where and how deep it could flood during different coastal storm events and how that changes with sea level rise. That information gives insight for suitable elevations for new construction, Schile said.

“The proposed climate risk assessment for the coastal floodplain study is the next step, focusing on risk,” according to Schile.

The application requests $150,000 from B.C. government’s community emergency preparedness fund’s disaster risk reduction climate adaptation stream. If successful, the subsequent project would use the data from the coastal flood hazard mapping to assess what coastal areas and features are most vulnerable to storm surge and sea level rise under climate change conditions as well what is the potential risk, whether low, moderate or high, to people, property, the local economy and the natural environment.

The RDN was also recently successful in receiving $150,000 in provincial grant funding to do a geohazard risk assessment, which will specifically focus on steep slopes and landslides.

“These studies have never before been completed at this scale nor considered climate change,” Schile said, noting the studies are part of the RDN’s development of a program to transition to a risk-based approach to land use planning.

Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder