Estimated $300 million cost to rebuild the entire Stanley Park seawall

Jan 18 2023, 5:09 pm

Vancouver’s shoreline has taken a real beating in recent years, with the seemingly growing frequency of severe windstorms coupled with rising sea levels causing significant damage to the seawall, beaches, and other facilities and infrastructure.

On Monday, staff with the Vancouver Park Board provided the elected commissioners with an update on storm damage to Park Board property, including the latest costs incurred.

Interim repairs to reestablish public use have at least been made to most damaged infrastructure, especially from damage incurred by the particularly potent January 2022 storm when high winds coincided with a king tide.

The largest public facility that has not seen the required repairs enabling reopening following the January 2022 storm is the Jericho Pier, which incurred significant deck and structural damage. Park Board staff previously noted the king tide’s reach swept up beach logs, and the storm’s waves turned these floating logs into projectiles onto the pier, which had already been weakened by previous storms in 2021.

Park Board staff stated a report will be presented to the commissioners later this year outlining the pier’s damage in detail, and the potential options for the structure moving forward.

It should be noted that the Park Board is already eyeing a resilient replacement for Jericho Pier. In 2017, Park Board commissioners approved a new replacement pier design that is 2.5 metres higher than the existing 1977-built structure to account for rising sea levels and storm surges, and uses stronger concrete and steel materials instead of the wood materials of the existing structure. At the time, the Park Board was hopeful the new pier could be built by 2021, but no meaningful progress was made on pursuing the funding to cover the $16 million construction cost.

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Jericho Pier damaged by the January 2022 storm. (@TriciaBarker49/Twitter)

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Jericho Pier damaged by the January 2022 storm. (@TriciaBarker49/Twitter)

Artistic rendering of the new entry plaza into Jericho Pier at Jericho Beach in Vancouver. (City of Vancouver)

The height of the proposed new concrete and steel structure versus the existing wooden structure. (City of Vancouver)

But Vancouver is not the only jurisdiction in the region to incur recent storm damage to a popular public pier. The much larger White Rock Pier saw substantial damage from the December 2018 storm, resulting in a section of the pier being completely severed. However, the City of White Rock was able to reopen the pier relatively quickly in August 2019 — within eight months — by completing $4.3 million of urgent interim repairs. At the time, it was estimated another $11.6 million would be needed to repair other damage and perform resiliency upgrades to the remaining sections of the pier.

Moreover, last year, the Vancouver Park Board saw some criticism over the prolonged closure of Kitsilano Pool. The outdoor pool was damaged by the January 2022 storm, and its reopening, typically over the May long weekend, was delayed until late July. So far, about $250,000 has been spent on the pool’s repairs, and further investments are needed to complete long-term repairs and upgrades.

Over the coming months, the Park Board is also looking to complete full repairs to the Vanier Park boat launch and portions of Spanish Banks’ walking and cycling pathway.

Major long-term investments are needed to further improve infrastructure for optimal resiliency against rising sea levels, and prevent storm damage from wave and wind action. Park Board staff noted this funding is not available, and it was suggested during the deliberations that federal and provincial funding would have to be pursued given the limitations of the Park Board’s budget.

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January 2022 king tide and storm surge overwhelming Kitsilano Pool. (Vancouver Park Board)

King Tide flooding Vancouver Jericho Beach Locarno Beach

Sandbagging in the Jericho and Locarno beach areas in preparation for King Tide flooding in Vancouver. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

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Shoreline storm damage during the 2021/2022 season. (Vancouver Park Board)

For the 2021/2022 storm season, the Park Board is expecting it will need to spend a total of $2.3 million on seawall, shoreline, and marine asset damage repair, including $1 million spent to date, and an additional $1.2 million in additional spending anticipated.

Over the Park Board’s current four-year capital plan between 2023 and 2026, $3.5 million has been budgeted to repair sections of the seawall and the shoreline, and another $1 million for marine structures. It was explained during the meeting that both budgets are enough to perform some proactive and reactive work similar to the scope of the Stanley Park seawall rehabilitation in 2018/2019, which included high-priority repairs and reconstruction of 50 metres of seawall. But, if similar proactive work were to be carried out, there would not be any available funds to cover the emergency repair costs for another major damaging storm similar to January 2022.

The cost to rebuild the seawall is about $17,000 per metre, and the cost of replacing a beach area is about $1,000 per metre — but these figures do not account for resiliency upgrades and project planning costs. According to Park Board staff, if all 8 km of seawall around Stanley Park were to be replaced, including all associated project costs, the total cost could potentially be in the range of $250 million and $300 million.

Over 23 km of Vancouver’s shoreline is under the direct jurisdiction of the Park Board. By 2050, it is anticipated sea levels could be half a metre higher than present day, and the regular sea levels could look like today’s king tides.

Later in 2023, Park Board staff will provide commissioners with an update on their planning work to create a master plan for improving the West End Waterfront, which entails the areas spanning Sunset Beach Park and English Beach Park. The plan is expected to outline not only improved public spaces for gathering and recreation, but also options for addressing the impact of rising sea levels.


January 2022 storm damage on the Stanley Park seawall. (@BorisovRoxanne/Twitter)

Waves pounding the Stanley Park seawall. (Colin Knowles/Flickr)

For its part, the City of Vancouver has also been exploring options to protect vulnerable, low-lying areas next to the shoreline.

For example, a 2016 report by City staff to Vancouver City Council presented the option of building an $800 million sea gate at the mouth of False Creek — a 10-metre-tall, 360-metre-wide gate under the Burrard Street Bridge that could be initially closed for three to four days annually, increasing over time as sea levels rise.

Another option to protect the False Creek inner harbour and False Creek Flats is to raise 8.6 km of seawall by an average height of 2.3 metres. This would cost between $300 million and $400 million.

For other high-risk areas, $5 million could cover the cost of a dike surrounding Kitsilano Beach and Vanier Park, $24 million could provide a continuous dike to protect Jericho Beach Park and Locarno Beach, and $160 million for a shoreline dike along the Fraser River from the Arthur Laing Bridge to River District.

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