British Columbia’s most at-risk city for coastal flooding will be receiving a $24.95 million flood mitigation upgrade with the help of the provincial government.
Four pump stations in Richmond will be rebuilt, as the pumping equipment has reached the end of its useful lifespan, and 1,750 metres of river fronting dikes will be raised and strengthened. To fund the project, the provincial government will provide $16.6 million while the City of Richmond will cover the remaining $8.3 million.
“We enjoy the economic and quality-of-life benefits associated with British Columbia’s rivers and lakes, and the ocean,” said Todd Stone, B.C. Minister Transportation and Infrastructure, in a statement. “But with that, we also need to be aware of the real potential waterways pose for flooding and associated risks to public safety.”
Richmond is only about one metre above sea level, making it vulnerable to the risk of flooding by storm surge and freshet – the overflow of the Fraser River from heavy rainfall and snowmelt. It is also severely susceptible to the effects of climate change, with the expectation that sea levels will rise by about one metre over the coming century.
The city’s population is expected to grow from 195,000 today to 275,000 by 2041, and it is also the location of a major economic and transportation hub: Vancouver International Airport.
“By substantially investing in infrastructure, we are taking proactive steps to keep communities and people safe,” continues Stone. “And we recognize the unique challenges that the City of Richmond has in regard to flood management and protection, and we applaud the city’s proactive and innovative approach.“
Currently, the island city is protected by 49 kilometres of dikes, 112 pumps at 39 pump stations, 320 kilometres of ditches and canals, and 600 kilometres of box culverts and storm sewers.
There has never been a recorded dike breach in Richmond’s history, but there have been minor flood events in low-lying areas caused by heavy rainfall that exceeded a one in 10 year storm event.
However, according to Natural Resources Canada, Richmond is not at significant risk of a tsunami as Vancouver Island acts as a barrier from Pacific-generated tsunamis. A tsunamis from the Pacific, traveling through the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Strait of Georgia, would lose most of its energy along the way and hit Richmond’s western shore with a wave less than half a metre high.
Furthermore, the submerged banks – the Fraser River delta’s wide tidal flats – would also dissipate much of the wave energy.