Sḵwx̱wú7mesh/Squamish Flood Planning: adapting to climate change
Excerpt from 2020 article
Due to its location and low-lying elevation, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh/Squamish faces a high risk of flooding from extreme weather events, such as heavy precipitation and storm surges. This risk is especially important for the significant portion of new development occurring within the floodplain. Due to the combination of ongoing floodplain development and the presence of natural flood hazards (e.g., rivers), the District of Squamish initiated an Integrated Flood Hazard Management Plan (IFHMP) in 2014.
Read the full article to see what else is happening.
Background: A view along the Squamish River dike upgrade, undertaken in 2019. (Credit: David Roulston)
What’s been done since 2017?
The table below reports on progress made on recommended actions from the previous 2017 article, where identified. Many of these require ongoing action.
|2017 Action||Action Taken|
|Government Action and Policy|
|Improve strategic dike protection for the community using techniques that reflect an environmentally sensitive approach.||In 2019, a 1-km long, $4-million upgrade to the Squamish River dike in Brackendale to divert excess water was completed (see Full Article). A dike master planning process has also been initiated to prepare a dike upgrade plan for the eagle viewing area/Siyich’em Reserve in Brackendale. In 2020, the building of 200 m of new sea dike is planned along the Mamquam Blind Channel (an inlet of Átl’ḵa7tsem/Txwnéwu7ts/Howe Sound) beside Xwu’nekw Park. Further dike upgrades are planned through redevelopment of private waterfront lands.|
|Manage development in flood hazard areas through updated Official Community Plan (OCP), DPA guidelines, bylaws, etc.||In 2017, the District adopted the community’s first Floodplain Bylaw, which establishes flood construction levels (the elevation that habitable areas must be lifted to) and building setbacks from watercourses and dikes.|
|Limit continued densification in the highest hazard areas.||In 2018, the District’s OCP was updated, which adds strong policy for community flood management and environmental protection; discourages new development in the highest flood risk areas; and directs new growth to lower risk areas. The OCP also includes a Development Permit Area that designates critical floodways through the town and establishes regulations for new development within those areas to avoid increasing flood risk over time.|
|Action and policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet or exceed current targets.||The Council of the District of Squamish recently declared a Climate Emergency. The District is focused on maintaining carbon neutrality within corporate operations as part of the commitment to the Climate Action Charter (CAC). This is an initiative developed by the Province of B.C. to encourage municipalities to work towards carbon neutrality within their corporate operations. The District is committed to the CAC initiative and has actioned updates within the OCP in support of this. Specific climate change mitigation measures that the District is undertaking include:
• Developing a Community Carbon Marketplace, allowing the District to offset corporate emissions with local emission-reducing projects.
• Establishing a citizen-led Climate Leadership Team that will work with the Mayor, Council and a Consultant to develop a Community Climate Action Plan that will provide insights into Squamish’s greenhouse gas emission sources, establish bold actions to reduce emissions and capitalize on available economic opportunities to work towards carbon neutrality. • Preparing a Community Energy and Emissions Plan (CEEP).
• Encouraging compact land use patterns that support complete communities, infill development, a diversity of transportation options and a greater mix of land uses.
• Emphasizing active transportation and public transit as an essential part of the District transportation and land use network.
• Ensuring that high-density employment areas are easily accessed by active transportation and transit networks, and that local employment opportunities provide alternatives to lengthy vehicle commutes.
• Supporting and advocating for the implementation of effective regional transit services.
• Facilitating the development and coordinated management of low impact alternative and renewable energy sources such as solar, bioenergy, geothermal, wind power, micro hydro, small-scale hydro, or run-of-theriver hydroelectric projects.
• Reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with landfill operations.
What can you do?
A detailed overview of recommended actions relating to climate change is included in The path to zero carbon municipalities. In some cases, no progress was identified on previous recommended actions; these remain listed below.
Individual and Organization Actions:
- Become familiar with the current IFHMP. Be aware of flood hazards in your area and be prepared for an emergency at your home and workplace.
Government Action and Policy:
- Conduct further studies on impacts of flood control on environmental processes and continued alternatives that work with nature.
- Continue to raise awareness of flood risks and responsible watershed stewardship.
- Incorporate latest climate change hazard assessments into emergency response planning.
- Complete complementary flood studies for unique hazards beyond the scope of the IFHMP as funding permits.
- Maintain a toolkit (e.g., models, guidelines, and best practices) to support staff analysis and recommendations to Council.
- Promote closer relationships with stakeholders from the river headwaters to Átl’ḵa7tsem/Txwnéwu7ts/Howe Sound to facilitate working together.
- Continue to renew the IFHMP every five to 10 years.
- Begin planning for opportunistic retreat of key facilities and infrastructure from high flood hazard areas at the end of their service life.