Sea Level Rise Strategy

WATCH | How North Shore partners are collaborating to proactively prepare, adapt, and respond to the risks of sea level rise

Rising sea levels on the North Shore — a consequence of climate change — are predicted to present financial and other challenges to our communities in the long term, if left unaddressed.

Following direction from the Province of BC, North Shore partners (District of North Vancouver, City of North Vancouver, District of West Vancouver, Squamish Nation, Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, and North Shore Emergency Management) are working proactively to prepare for a one-metre increase in sea levels by 2100, and a two-metre increase in sea levels by 2200.

Our collaborative Sea Level Rise Strategy identifies actions that we hope to take over the long term to help us create more resilient communities, neighbourhoods, cultural spaces, and infrastructure, and manage the financial impacts of sea level rise.

We are pleased that the District was recently recognized with a Climate Adaptation leadership award for our Sea Level Rise Strategy. Learn more about the award at the Climate Energy Association website.

News, events, updates

February 2021 —  Strategy finalized

The strategy is finalized by all partners. 

November 23, 2020 —  DNV Council approval

Council approved the strategy. View the staff report to Council in the 'Documents and resources' tab.

October 26, 2020 — Staff workshop for DNV Council

District staff presented the draft strategy to council in a workshop. The staff report is available in the 'Documents and resources' tab.

September 1 to 22, 2020 — Community feedback on the draft strategy

We completed a draft of the Sea Level Rise Strategy, and asked the public for feedback in an online survey. A summary of the feedback received is available in the October 26, 2020, staff report. View the staff report in the 'documents and resources' tab.

March to July 2020 — Prepared the draft strategy 

After receiving input from stakeholders and the broader community, we refined the adaptation approaches, and drafted an adaptation measures toolkit of options tailored to the North Shore.

We also drafted preliminary concepts, guidance, and actions for how we should continue to work towards sea level rise adaptation after this strategy is complete.

November 2019 to March 2020 — Community consultation

We asked for your thoughts on the high-level adaptation approaches we're exploring, and have considered your feedback throughout the draft strategy. In general, we heard that: 

  • Community members understand we need ongoing, long-term planning to prepare for sea level rise, and want to be involved
  • A variety of features within areas that could potentially be impacted by sea level rise matter, including homes, natural areas and ecosystems, transportation routes, and local businesses and jobs, as do features and landmarks that contribute to the wellbeing of members of The Squamish Nation (eg. cemetery, St. Paul's church) 
  • Community members identified both benefits and drawbacks about the high-level adaptation approaches

We gathered feedback using a few different methods, including:

  • Online (January 21 - March 8, 2020)
  • Community workshops for District property owners (February 11 - 13, 2020)
  • Meetings and open houses with Elders, hosted by Squamish Nation (November 2019 and March 2020)

You can read detailed summaries of what we heard in the 'documents and resources' tab.

February 11 to 13, 2020 — Community workshops for DNV property owners

We gathered feedback from District of North Vancouver property owners who live within or near the sea level rise study area, as well as members of local community organizations.

A summary of what we heard and the materials staff presented at the workshops is available in the 'documents and resources' tab.


About the strategy

The Sea Level Rise Strategy was approved by council in November 2020, and is available below for review.

The strategy will help North Shore partners work together to proactively respond to sea level rise by providing us with a better understanding of the potential impacts, options available to reduce risk, and direction to focus our detailed planning work for areas that are at risk if no action is taken.

The strategy includes an adaptation toolkit consisting of policy, regulatory, structural, and non-structural (e.g. nature-based) options for proactively responding to sea level rise, along with preliminary concepts for low-lying areas, and next steps to continue our adaptation work.

Download the strategy

Key actions in the strategy

The strategy sets the direction for continuing to build resilient North Shore communities, and includes six priority actions.

  1. Formalize a working group with North Shore sea level rise partners to continue adaptation planning
  2. Continue building our knowledge about the impacts of sea level rise
  3. Establish comprehensive adaptation plans
  4. Integrate findings from strategy into community flood management initiatives 
  5. Continue generating public awareness about coastal flooding and sea level rise
  6. Coordinate coastal flood management with different levels of government 

Adaptation plans for low-lying areas 

The strategy proposes creating comprehensive adaptation plans for low-lying areas where we anticipate coastal flooding will reach further inland than waterfront properties. These areas include:

  • Horseshoe Bay
  • Stearman Beach
  • Dundarave
  • Ambleside
  • Capilano
  • Norgate and Mosquito Creek
  • Misson-Lonsdale
  • Lynn Creek
  • Maplewood

While these areas (referred to in the strategy as 'comprehensive adaptation zones') require further technical analysis and assessment, as well as further consultation with affected communities, the draft proposes some preliminary concepts for each area that includes a combination of options:

Nature-based designs

Nature-based designs can reshape or preserve areas for future intertidal habitat, or slow the impact of waves. This approach could be an option for areas such as Stearman Beach, Ambleside, Kings Mill Walk Park in Norgate-Mosquito, Maplewood (e.g. mudflats), and possibly other areas.

Graphic showing how nature can be reshaped to mitigate sea level rise
Nature-based designs can preserve intertidal habitat or slow the impact of waves


Raising land through development

Raising land in flood prone areas could be an option for parts of the North Shore, such as Ambleside, Capilano, Norgate industrial area, Lynn Creek industrial area, and possibly other areas.

Graphic showing how raising land can help mitigate sea level rise
Raising land in flood prone areas can be an option for parts of the North Shore


Building dikes

Building dike corridors to protect existing developed areas is another option. Dikes can be placed inland along the current coastline, or between industrial areas and adjacent residential or commercial areas.

Dikes could be an option for areas such as Ambleside, Capilano, Norgate, Mission-Lonsdale, Lynn Creek, Maplewood, and possibly other areas.

Graphic showing how dikes can mitigate the risk of sea level rise


Flood-proof buildings

Raising buildings so they are less susceptible to flooding could be an option for areas such as Horseshoe Bay Park, Stearman Beach, Dundarave, and in potential sea level rise flood areas behind dike corridors and other areas. Flood risk areas behind dikes require additional measures.

Graphic showing how buildings can be flood proofed
Raising buildings to make them less susceptible to flooding is an option in some areas

Sea level rise adaptation strategies in action 

Click on the photos to learn more.

Community flood management initiatives 

The strategy also proposes managing risk posed by sea level rise by using findings to inform regulation and policies, such as bylaws, Development Permit areas, land use planning, and infrastructure planning. 

Consideration will be given to areas both within and beyond the comprehensive adaptation plan areas.

Next steps

Adapting our communities to sea level rise is a long-term process. Now that the strategy is complete, we anticipate that further technical work will be required to consider the options for each area, along with estimated costs.

Project details

About the study area

To develop the sea level rise strategy, we worked with project partners to study potential impacts to coastlines in the District of North Vancouver, City of North Vancouver, District of West Vancouver, and Squamish Nation reserve lands.

Based on guidance from the Province of BC, we are planning for one metre (about 3 feet) of sea level rise in 80 years (2100), and two metres (about 6 feet) in 180 years (2200), as shown on this map.

While our study area does not include the coastline along the Tsleil-Waututh Nation’s reserve lands (the Nation is leading their own community climate change resiliency planning project), the area they are studying is also included on the map, using data they provided, for reference.

MAP | Areas anticipated to be flooded during an extreme storm with a 1 metre (light orange) and 2 metre (dark orange) rise in sea levels, if we don't adapt. Actual coastal flooding may vary, depending on shoreline characteristics and wave effects. (How we developed this map)

Explore larger map

Our adaptation approaches

To respond to coastal flooding and manage sea level rise risk on the North Shore, ​we explored different adaptation approaches, considering the pros and cons associated with each of them, and showing illustrative examples of what these approaches could look like. For the purposes of this project, we are looking at a wide range of options for addressing sea level rise, at a high level.

Due to the varied coastline between Howe Sound and Indian arm, it is likely that North Shore communities would use different adaptation approaches for different locations.

Here are the pros and cons of some of the potential approaches we could consider.


Focus on structural measures such as building dikes to reduce the likelihood of flooding. 


Ability to implement standalone projects and pursue potential development opportunities.


Complex implementation, possible environmental impacts related to structures, potential to create a false sense of risk reduction, potential to increase risk by encouraging more intensive development.

Sea level rise adaptation solution: resist
Structures such as dikes help resist the impacts of sea level rise


Focus on non-structural adaptation measures, including consciously acknowledging flood risk, defining how much risk we are willing to tolerate, and raising livable spaces in areas vulnerable to flooding.


Well-suited for gradual implementation in pace with redevelopment and infrastructure upgrades.


Implementation pace is limited based on the timing of development and infrastructure upgrades, potential for elevated risk, and difficulty assessing risk tolerance.

Accommodating sea level rise
Raising livable spaces in areas vulnerable to flooding help accommodate the impacts of sea level rise


Focus on land use planning to avoid building or adding more in areas that are vulnerable to flooding, or by gradually relocating buildings and infrastructure away from areas at risk of flooding.


Highly effective risk reduction approach, with an opportunity for habitat, cultural, and recreational land use.


Could result in the loss of long term development potential; potential costs with relocation.

Sea level rise adaptation solution: avoid
Gradually relocating buildings and infrastructure away from areas at risk of flooding help avoid the impacts of sea level rise


Reclaim land to make space for structures such as dikes, which can reduce the likelihood of flooding in coastal areas. Reclaimed land could be used for wildlife habitat, recreation, or other purposes.


Less disruption to existing developed lands to accommodate flood protection measures, potential opportunities for habitat, cultural, and recreational co-benefits.


Impacts to existing intertidal habitat, and complex implementation

Sea level rise adaptation solution: advance
Making space for structures such as dikes can reduce the likelihood of flooding and provide new animal habitat or recreation space

Our guiding principles for adaptation

We've developed five principles to guide our sea level rise adaptation planning.

1. Sea level is rising and we have to be willing to accept change

Areas at risk of flooding due to sea level rise will be affected unless we take proactive steps to minimize the impact.

2. Adaptation is flexible in the face of uncertainty

New scientific and technical information informs our decisions about how we can prepare for a range of scenarios in the future, including changes in the pace and height of sea level rise over time.

3. Decisions are risk-based and consider impacts to different sectors

Hazard and risk information drives our discussions, while impacts to environmental, economic, and social sectors are always considered.

4. Everyone has a role in adaptation

We need to work together to create more resilient communities by working collaboratively across all levels of government and with our communities on our actions.

5. Planning includes education and awareness opportunities

Openly communicating flood risks facing different areas on the North Shore, and being transparent about adaptation planning as it evolves over time, helps ensure our communities have a shared awareness.​​

Next steps

Our work to adapt to sea level rise will continues after the strategy is complete. Since our North Shore communities have varied and unique coastlines, further analysis may be required as we proactively plan for sea level rise.


What is sea level rise?

As average temperatures increase, sea levels rise due to an increase in water volume as a result of melting glaciers into the ocean. Warming water also expands and takes up more space, which is known as thermal expansion. 

Other causes of sea level rise include changes in ocean circulation and settling or sinking of land.

What is coastal flooding?

As sea level rises, coastal areas are more likely to experience flooding. Understanding where flooding could occur will help us understand how well our adaptation measures will respond to sea level rise.

Is coastal flooding already happening?

Flat, low-lying areas are more prone to coastal flooding with sea level rise. The North Shore and Lower Mainland already experience coastal flooding when there are high tides and stormy weather conditions.

During winter months extra high tides, called 'king tides,' push sea levels even higher.

Recent coastal storms, such as the one we experienced in 2012, have given us a preview of what typical sea levels could be by 2050, when sea levels are expected to be 0.5 metre (about 1.6 feet) higher than today.

Unless we adapt, these storms and king tides — combined with sea level rise — are anticipated to increase the likelihood of floodwaters that would cause damage to our community.

These photos identify some of the areas of the North Shore that could see impacts from sea level rise if we don't take actions now to adapt.

EXPLORE | Expand these photos to get more details about local sea level rise impacts

How much is sea level expected to rise on the North Shore?

The Provincial government advises municipalities to plan for one metre of sea level rise by 2100 and two metres of sea level rise by 2200.

While sea level rise projections may seem like a long time from now, buildings, infrastructure, and decisions about how land is used last many years or decades and the decisions we make today will impact our future.

How are sea level rise projections made?

Sea level rise projections provide us with an idea of what conditions to expect, but the pace of sea level rise is uncertain.

Because greenhouse gas emissions released in our atmosphere are warming our climate, a certain amount of sea level rise is expected, regardless of how much we reduce our emissions today.

​If we do not implement any adaptation strategies or reduce emissions, scientists predict that global sea levels will rise by 28 to 98 centimetres by the year 2100, according to the United Nations’ International Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report, 2014.

What are the impacts for our community?

We estimated the impacts for a few hypothetical sea level rise scenarios that would occur if we did not adapt. (Learn how we did it

By understanding potential consequences, we can then assess how adaptation measures could reduce our exposure to possible flooding.

This graphic illustrates estimated impacts on the North Shore from a one-metre rise in sea levels with a major storm, and from a two-metre rise in sea levels with an extreme storm

Project partners

Working together on the North Shore

The Sea Level Rise Risk Assessment and Adaptation Strategy is a collaborative project including the District of North Vancouver, City of North Vancouver, District of West Vancouver, Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, Squamish Nation, and North Shore Emergency Management.

The study area for this project does not include the coastline along the Tsleil-Waututh Nation’s Burrard Inlet reserve, as the Nation is leading their own community climate change resiliency planning project.

Documents and resources

Council documents

February 2021  — Final strategy

The strategy has been finalized by the project partners. The strategy includes maps and technical information for different sea level rise flood scenarios, vulnerabilities if we do not adapt to sea level rise, six priority actions to continue sea level rise adaptation planning, a North Shore adaptation toolkit, and summaries of public engagement and input. 

Download the final strategy 

November 23, 2020 — DNV Council approval

District staff report to Council with recommendation

October 26, 2020 — DNV Council workshop

District staff report to Council with recommendation

Project documents

February 11 to 13, 2020 — Community workshops for DNV property owners

We gathered feedback from District of North Vancouver property owners who live within or near the sea level rise study area, as well as members of local community organizations.

A summary of the input is available in the October 26, 2020, staff report in the link above.

Download a summary of the workshop materials (PDF; 38MB)

Sea level rise resources online

Planning for sea level rise

WATCH | How BC's coastal communities are planning for sea level rise (view more videos in this series)

The science of climate change

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change. The IPCC was created to provide policymakers with regular scientific assessments on climate change, its implications and potential future risks, as well as to put forward adaptation and mitigation options.

Read the IPCC's 2014 climate change report

Canada's changing climate

Environment and Climate Change Canada has released a report about how and why Canada's climate has changed, and what changes are projected for the future.

Read Canada's Changing Climate Report

Flood and disaster preparedness in our community

North Shore Emergency Management (NSEM) is working with our communities to build a disaster resilient North Shore. They provide tips for how to prepare for a flood or other disaster, on their website.

Visit North Shore Emergency Management's website

Reaching our climate action and environmental health goals

We're taking action in six key areas to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect and enhance ecosystem health and biodiversity, and improve our resilience to climate change.

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