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Coquitlam readies for future floods, wildfires and heat waves

Coquitlam city council unanimously adopted its Climate Adaptation Strategic Plan (CASP) last fall, with implementation starting this year.
climate change Getty
Climate change is prominent in the review and expansion of Coquitlam policies, plans and practices this year.

Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, drinking water shortages and flooding.

Those are some of the climate risks that Coquitlam city hall will keep a close eye on starting this year, as it shapes its future policies, plans and practices.

Last fall, city council unanimously approved its Climate Adaptation Strategic Plan (CASP) to boost its climate action pledge, signed in 2007, to lower greenhouse gas emissions and implement programs to address climate change.

According to the CASP, which was funded through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, temperatures in Coquitlam are set to rise 1.8 degrees C higher on average by 2050, and 3.5 degrees C more by 2080. That could have a devastating impact on the snow melt, the drinking water, and plants and animals, the report reads.

As well, the amount of rain in the fall, winter and spring months is projected to rise by 2% by 2050 and 6% by 2080; however, summer rain will drop by 6% by 2050, and 10% by 2080, with potential consequences to the city’s drinking water, sewers, transportation and emergency response systems.

Sea levels, too, are expected to go up by 30 cm by 2050, and 80 cm by 2080, with subsequent flooding to properties, roads and services if the city doesn’t take action.

Jaime Boan, Coquitlam’s general manager of engineering and public works, the city department tasked to handle most of the CASP goals, said a number of steps are already underway to safeguard infrastructure and services in the event of extreme weather.

The CASP framework calls for eight initiatives to start this year:

• revise the storm sewer design criteria to include climate change factors, and identify system capacity, to address inland flooding

• work with the Fraser Basin Council to develop a flood protection strategy across municipalities as well as plans and capital works to prevent coastal flooding

• study drinking water conservation options, to address drinking water shortages

• continue implementing rainwater management measures for all new developments, to avoid droughts

• look at adding more clean air shelters in civic facilities, in case of wildfires

• monitor the urban tree canopy, to prevent heat waves

• assess the health of natural ecosystems, to avoid droughts

• and update or expand the interface wildfire risk management policy, to mitigate wildfires where homes are on the edge of forests

At the Oct. 26 council meeting, Mayor Richard Stewart, who chairs the Metro Vancouver committee on liquid waste, said the city’s action list doesn’t include Inflow and Infiltration (I&I) — specifically, where storm drains are improperly linked to sewer outlets.

And he raised concern about the need for the Tri-City municipalities to work together should an interface fire break out. City manager Peter Steblin told council that Coquitlam is assisting Belcarra, which currently doesn’t have a sufficient water supply to douse flames.

Coun. Bonita Zarrillo said she’s pleased to see the tree canopy component added to the CASP, and noted food security should also be included.

The CASP forms part of the city’s overall environmental sustainability plan, and is expected to be carried out over a number of years, Boan said.

The CASP used data and research by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Metro Vancouver’s climate projections, climate models from the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions and Canada’s Changing Climate Report.