In what’s become almost an annual tradition, Coquitlam city council will move $1 million into its extreme weather reserve to ready for the next winter storm.
On Monday (May 16), council unanimously OK’d the transfer from the city initiatives reserve to prepare for major snow dumps and cold atmospheric rivers.
The move comes after the municipality battled five big snow storms between Dec. 3 and Feb. 2 — the worst starting Dec. 23 with the mercury dropping to -16 C for several nights.
City manager Peter Steblin said it was the most severe winter weather in 10 years, with residents at higher elevations seeing up to 100 cm of snow.
And because there was little snow melt, plus compact snow on the roads — most of which had been plowed and salted — city staff fielded a total of 1,648 service calls.
According to Steblin’s report, public works crews in Coquitlam also had to contend with the salt shortage over the winter as the two main local suppliers ran out, leaving many Lower Mainland municipalities with few options to clear the white stuff.
In Coquitlam, the city mixed in sand to stretch its salt stock, a measure that wasn’t particularly good for the environment, Coun. Brent Asmundson noted.
Now, the city plans to increase its salt storage facility at the Austin Works Yard, which is currently undergoing an expansion at Mariner Way and Austin Avenue, to double the salt load from 2,200 tonnes to 4,400 tonnes; a $250,000 one-time cost will be put before council this fall for consideration in the 2023 budget, Steblin wrote, to increase the salt storage shed from 23 m by 21 m to 23 m by 41 m, Jaime Boan, Coquitlam's general manager of engineering and public works told the Tri-City News.
As well, the city will solidify its "When Declared" parking restrictions (banning parking on one side of the street to allow for snow removal) for:
- Lansdowne Drive
- Parkway Boulevard
- Plateau Boulevard
- Pinetree Way
- Topaz Court
- Firestone Place
Engineers are also eyeing sections of Sheffield Avenue and Streamline Hill Street on Burke Mountain for parking restrictions when a snowfall starts.
The city’s extreme weather reserve has been underfunded for years.
Within the past decade, council has transferred the following amounts to clear snow:
- 2022 = $1 million
- 2021 = $165,465
- 2020 = $800,000
- 2019 = $1 million
- 2018 = $360,496
- 2017 = $870,000
And, over the 2021–22 winter, the city dipped into other infrastructure sources to fix 304 potholes in January and 245 potholes in February due to road deterioration from the extreme weather.
Coun. Trish Mandewo said the Extreme Weather Reserve needs to be properly funded because, "with climate change, we need to deal with ongoing" events.
"We’re doing our best to respond to the changes in the weather and be prepared," Coun. Teri Towner added, noting crews work 24/7 in the winter.
For more details about Coquitlam’s weather response and how you will be affected, you're encouraged to visit the winter page on the city's website.