November 2, 2016
Sea level rise poses a significant risk to the City of Vancouver. The risk and the potential solutions to adapt to rising seas are extremely complex. Compass Resource Management, Ebbwater Consulting, Northwest Hydraulic Consultants and Urban Systems were retained by the City to help them better understand the risks, to develop high-level adaptation options and to create a unique, inclusive decision-making process to explore trade-offs between various adaptation options.
About the Project
This project breaks new ground in evaluating the implications and timelines of sea level rise on coastal communities, and provides a model for other communities grappling with the challenges of assessing and managing flood risks from a rising sea. The project included several leading-edge concepts for climate adaptation in Canada:
- The project recognized that a wide variety of values needed to be incorporated into the decision-process. The project team worked with stakeholders and city staff to develop evaluation criteria in the categories of people, environment, economy and implementation. These included criteria such as: number of people displaced and area potentially flooded, risk of contaminant release, damage to buildings, cost of emergency response, aesthetics of intervention, and adaptability of intervention.
- The holistic approach to evaluation of flood mitigation options necessitated the development of new science-based methods for flood risk assessment. In future, these methods can be applied to other municipalities at risk from flooding.
- The project followed an innovative Structured-Decision-Making process that helped layout and clarify the short and long-term trade-offs associated with climate adaptation. The process involved the use of a series of stakeholder workshops to identify interests that might be affected, the development of suitable mitigation alternatives, a review of the performance of each alternative and a trade-off analysis.
- This project also explored the all-important question of when to implement adaptation alternatives. Too early will mean wasted dollars and abrupt changes in our communities. Too late and we are at risk of undue suffering from climate extremes. Finding the sweet spot on the timeline is a key component of adaptation planning. A timing tool that helps prioritise actions was developed as part of this project, and could be applied to other communities at risk from sea level rise.
- The project identified potential adaptation options for 11 coastal neighbourhoods under the broad themes of protect, adapt and managed retreat. The work provides guidance on which areas need attention in the short-term. And, for areas where intervention is not required for many decades, ideas on which options should be preserved were provided (i.e. where a dike might be one suitable option, it is important that new infrastructure is not built where a future dike might go). This high-level information will be used to guide future community engagement.
The project continues to inform sea level rise strategy at the City of Vancouver. More information on the City’s work in this area, including a copy of the report, can be found here: http://vancouver.ca/green-vancouver/sea-level-rise.aspx
About the Project Team
- Compass Resource Management (http://www.compassrm.com/) is a team of decision analysts, facilitators and planners offering a full range of decision support services, creative problem solving tools and strategic analysis to help people and governments make informed and transparent choices. Compass led the overall process, including stakeholder engagement and decision-structuring, and co-authored reporting.
- Ebbwater Consulting (http://www.ebbwater.ca) is a Vancouver-based firm that works at the nexus of engineering, planning and policy with a focus on flood and climate adaptation. For this project, they led the technical team, developed new methods for risk assessment that fed the options assessment, and co-authored reporting.
- Northwest Hydraulic Consultants Ltd. (nhcweb.com) is an internationally-recognized engineering consulting company providing technically-advanced, environmentally responsible, innovative, and specialized scientific and engineering solutions to water resources challenges. As part of this project, NHC conducted coastal modelling that included allowances for sea level rise and completed mapping of future flood scenarios to inform the development, evaluation and implementation of flood adaptation options for the City of Vancouver.
- Urban Systems Ltd. (http://www.urbansystems.ca/) provided a support role to the technical team by identifying, assessing, and costing infrastructure options. Urban Systems Ltd. offers comprehensive service in civil infrastructure, land use planning, land economics, land development, landscape architecture, environmental planning, and municipal policy and finance.
For further information on overall process:
Project Manager and Decision Analyst
Compass Resource Management
Graham Long, Eng.D.
For further information on risk assessment methods, timing tool and engineering options:
Technical Lead and Flood Specialist
Tamsin Lyle, P.Eng
Downloadable .pdf version of this text is available here.