Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Climate Change Increasing Fraser River Flood Risk: The Time to Act Is Now.

In November 2021, the Fraser Valley experienced one of the worst flooding disasters in recent memory due to the spillover of the Nooksack River into Sumas Prairie. The worst flood in the 20th Century was the 1948 Fraser River flood, which resulted in the death of ten people and left 1,500 homeless. The most significant flood in recorded history along the Fraser River occurred in 1894.

The 2021 flood kicked people and governments into high gear. With climate change and decades of underinvestment in flood protection and mitigation, we need to take action to reduce the risk of another devastating flood event.

The Fraser Basin Council is working on a "Pathways to Action for Flood Risk Reduction and Resilience" plan. They recently presented information at the Metro Vancouver Regional District's Flood Resiliency Committee.

The following map shows today's flood risk for various flooding events. This map doesn't take into account the impacts of climate change.

Map of Fraser River flood events today based on different levels of flooding. Select the slide to enlarge.

Overall, things would be OK if climate change wasn't occurring, but it is.

The following map projects what a significant 1894-level flood event would look like in 2050 (orange) and 2100 (purple).

Map of 1894-type Fraser River flood events in 2050 and 2100. Select the slide to enlarge.

By 2050, without investment, Richmond, Delta, Pitt Meadows, Fort Langley, Barnton Island, Abbotsford, and Chilliwack would see significant flooding. By 2100, Richmond, Delta, Abbotsford and Chilliwack would be underwater.

Today's 500-year Fraser River flooding event would cause a $4.8 billion loss of residential, commercial, and industrial buildings. With climate change, over the years, this will become worse.

The point of the Fraser Basin Council presentation is to call governments to action. We have time to update our flood planning and work with the provincial and federal governments to invest in flood risk reduction. While 2050 is just around the corner, if we start investing today, we can reduce the risk of flooding impacting people's lives and livelihoods along the Fraser River.

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