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, the Squamish Nation, Port of Vancouver, 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 will identify 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.
News, events, updates
March 24, 2020 — Due to the ongoing situation with COVID-19, all public consultation for this project has been suspended until further notice.
Work we've done so far
January 21 to March 8, 2020 — Online consultation
We asked for your thoughts on the adaptation approaches that we are exploring. We will consider your input — along with the technical advice and best practices from our consultants — as we develop the draft strategy, which is the next step of this project.
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 materials staff presented at the workshops is available in the 'documents and resources' tab.
Don't live in the District of North Vancouver? To learn about opportunities to get involved with this project in your own municipality, please visit your local community website. You'll find links to partner websites in the 'Project partners' tab.
About the study area
To develop the sea level rise strategy, we're working 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)
Our adaptation approaches
To respond to coastal flooding and manage sea level rise risk on the North Shore, we're exploring 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Complete technical analysis (Summer 2018 - Spring 2019)
- Review context
- Identify coastal flood hazards
- Assess vulnerability and risk
Develop adaptation actions (Summer 2019 - Winter 2020)
- Explore adaptation approaches
- Get input from our communities
- Develop adaptation concepts and action areas
Create final strategy (Winter 2020 - Spring 2020)
- Refine adaptation concepts and action areas
- Draft the strategy
- Get input from our communities and councils on the draft strategy
- Finalize the strategy
- Have council consider the final strategy
Our work to adapt to sea level rise will continue after the strategy is completed. 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.
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, Port of Vancouver, 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, and will be invited to participate in the engagement process.
Questions about sea level rise that are specific to your community? Contact the project representative for your jurisdiction below.
District of North Vancouver
Stephen Bridger, Section Manager of Engineering Planning and Design
City of North Vancouver
David Matsubara, Design Engineer
District of West Vancouver
Port of Vancouver
Bob Sokol, Director of Planning and Capital Projects
North Shore Emergency Management
John Chapman, Emergency Planning Officer
Documents and resources
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.
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.
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.
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.