CRD identifies Greater Victoria areas most vulnerable to sea-level rise, flooding
As climate change is top-of-mind for many British Columbians, the Capital Regional District has updated a project that identifies the areas most vulnerable to flooding as a result of coastal storms and sea-level rise.
The report analyzes 221 areas for sea-level rise inundation. Most of the CRD’s coastline is elevated and the general risk of extensive flooding is low, but low-lying areas remain at risk.
“Like many things this year, a bit of a wakeup call to the harsh realities of climate change,” says Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch.
The most vulnerable regions are McNeill Bay in Oak Bay because of the gently sloping beaches, along with Saanich’s Cadboro Bay, Sidney’s Tulista Park and Roberts Bay, and Victoria’s harbour and Gorge Waterway.
“It’s a concern,” says Dylan Tanner, whose family owns property in the McNeill Bay neighbourhood. “I’d be a lot more worried if I lived in the South Pacific on some of the islands that are disappearing, but it’s definitely an issue.”
Climate scientist and former MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head, Andrew Weaver, says in the decades ahead, it wouldn’t be unexpected to see sites like Gyro Park periodically flooded.
“It’s not something to run to the hills screaming with,” he says about the report. “But in the longer term it’s a serious issue and the CRD has shown some prudence in taking steps now.”
Ecosystems at the Sooke River estuary, sites around Esquimalt Lagoon and parts of Island View Beach Regional park are also at risk of intertidal zone changes.
The report says more research is needed in those areas, along with sites near Metchosin, Colwood and Oak Bay, to better understand the effect of prolonged submergence.
“It is almost certain that without mitigative action, these sites could be irreparably damaged or lost to future generations,” the report says.
Oak Bay’s mayor says it’s important to be proactive on the matter. At McNeill Bay, the district has started the process of architectural work to mitigate some of the risks there. The years-long project could include changing the slope of beaches and adding off-shore reefs.
“We’ve seen this year with the collapse of highways, the cost of fixing things that are broken is much higher than adapting in the first place,” says Murdoch.
The CRD project got a $705,000 grant from the National Disaster Mitigation Program, which is funded by the provincial and federal governments.
The work is designed to be shared with the region’s municipalities and First Nations to help inform decisions and develop building guidelines.
Homeowners with property in a potentially affected area are encouraged to prepare. The CRD says coastal flooding depends on shoreline characteristics, proximity to sea edge and elevation above sea level.
For example, homes on a coastal bluff may be susceptible to erosion. Homes in low-lying areas could see temporary flooding or permanent inundation over time.
The CRD’s coastal flood inundation work also includes a second technical report related to the hazards of tsunamis.
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