A New Brunswick flag floats in floodwater from the Saint John River in Waterborough, N.B., on May 13, 2018. As Canadian communities brace for the heightened risks of spring flooding due to climate change, a non-profit group has published findings on how preserving wetlands and forests are key to reducing adaptation costs. The Municipal Natural Assets Initiative released its second set of findings recently on how forests, creeks, wetlands, ponds and other natural features help avoid costly infrastructure projects. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

Wetlands, forests can help cities save millions in climate adaptation costs: study

One of the areas considered was how conservation helps adapt to flooding

As Canadian communities brace for rising risks of spring flooding related to climate change, a non-profit group has published findings suggesting preserving wetlands and forests can be key to reducing adaptation costs.

The Municipal Natural Assets Initiative released its second set of results recently on how forests, creeks, wetlands, ponds and other natural features help cities avoid costly infrastructure projects.

The approach has been applied to the New Brunswick communities of Florenceville-Bristol, Riverside-Albert, and Riverview; Oshawa, Ont. and the district of Sparwood and City of Courtenay in British Columbia.

The report dated Feb. 21 estimates savings ranging from $200,000 to $414 million for preserving or improving so-called “natural assets,” with results including improved drainage of stormwater and purification of drinking water.

The initiative was originally pioneered by the Town of Gibsons, B.C. — which conducted the first similar studies — and is funded by the Suzuki Foundation.

One of the areas considered was how conservation helps adapt to flooding.

Last year’s Canada’s Changing Climate Report, a summary of climate science by federal researchers, concluded the effects of widespread warming are becoming evident in many parts of Canada and “are projected to intensify in the future,” including earlier spring peak streamflow and rising sea levels.

The 2019 document also concluded a warmer climate will intensify weather extremes, “while …more intense rainfalls will increase urban flood risks.”

The natural assets report says in Florenceville-Bristol, N.B., protecting 182 hectares of forested area along the St. John River helps avoid costly human-engineered systems that would be required for a one-in-100 year rain storm.

It estimates forest conservation would save the creation of a $3.5 million stormwater management pond system.

ALSO READ: Feds tell UN they’re on track to meet climate goals for power generation

In Riverview, N.B., adjacent to Moncton, protecting four wetlands that cover 14,000 square metres in the Mill Creek Watershed would avoid the $2.3 million needed to create stormwater management ponds to handle a 1-in-100 year flood, as predicted under a climate change scenario.

In Oshawa, Oshawa Creek — which drains an area of about 119 square kilometres — and surrounding lands were studied as the key natural system for handling more frequent rain storms.

According to the group protecting seven kilometres of natural area in the watershed, including steps to guard against erosion of lands around the creek system, would save about $18.9 million that it would cost to build a concrete channel with similar flow rates to handle runoff.

If full protection measures are taken for the entire length of the creek and its surrounding floodplain, the financial benefits increase to $414 million by avoiding construction of alternative, human-made water channels.

The consultant calls for additional study of the water system to fully define ways to help it absorb precipitation.

In Courtney, B.C., the study looked at several potential flooding scenarios from the Courtney River, one based on the 2009 flood conditions and another on a 1-in-200 year storm.

The project identified four options including widening the Courtenay River banks, converting a sawmill site to a natural foreshore, bringing back the river’s natural path and “gradually removing properties from the flood plain and allowing only land uses that are compatible with flooding in the flood plain.”

The study found these measures would not solve the flooding problems, but they would reduce flood damage by between $723,000 and $2.4 million, depending on the extent of the flooding.

Roy Brooke, director of the Municipal Natural Assets Initiative, said in an interview the information being gathered for municipalities can be used for their planning.

“Natural assets are providing vital infrastructure to communities, and the services have a value and often increase over time because they are adaptable in the face of climate change,” he said.

“This becomes information the communities can leverage … to start treating nature for what it is: a vital asset and a core part of any resilient system.”

Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Climate change

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Lake Country Food Bank welcomes wheelbarrow load of donations

Rotary Club presents symbolic cheque for the $24,600 raised since August 2018

WATCH: North Okanagan seniors stay fit in self-isolation

Residents have taken to their balconies to follow along in exercise class

‘An extra $220 every 90 days’: B.C. patients pay more dispensing fees due to prescription limits

Kelowna woman says it’s outrageous to charge for refills every 30 days

KGH Foundation establishes COVID-19 response fund to support frontline workers

Doctors, nurses and staff have been challenged to pivot operations to prepare for the COVID-19 pandemic

General exposure to public low after inmate tests positive for COVID-19: Interior Health

The Okanagan Correctional Centre inmate is receiving appropriate care

‘Hold our line’: 29 new cases of COVID-19 announced in B.C.

Saturday’s number of new cases marks the lowest in weeks.

Visitor to Kamloops army club tests positive for COVID-19: Interior Health

The individual visited Anavets 290 Army and Navy Club between March 13 and March 17

Two inmates found positive for COVID-19 at federal prison in B.C.; other tests pending

15 staff self-isolating waiting results, refusal to work notice sent, says correctional officer

COVID-19: Staying home in Shuswap is difficult when you don’t have one

As the snow flies, people without homes in Salmon Arm talk about how tough life is

Okanagan family shares story of son’s cancer recovery to encourage blood donation

Finlay Ritson’s parents can’t donate blood, but hope his story will encourage others to do so

Critic, workers’ group ‘disappointed’ Trudeau chose Amazon to distribute PPE

Amazon Canada said in an email to The Canadian Press that it is working with Canada Post, Purolator

Vernon politician questions if response to COVID-19 worse than virus

Precautions make sense but destroying economy in process doesn’t, says Coun. Scott Anderson

‘Always look on the sunny side,’ Okanagan senior says

Heaton Place resident shares story of growing up in Roaring Twenties

92-year-old Vernon woman crochets 1,000 toques for donation

Daisy Ferguson has been working on the toque project for the past six years

Most Read