In the coastal area occupied by the City of Surrey, BC, climate change will lead to sea level rise and more frequent and severe precipitation, causing flooding. To prepare for this challenge, the city has developed a Coastal Flood Adaptation Strategy (CFAS) with funding from FCM’s Municipalities for Climate Innovation Program (MCIP).

Surrey’s coastal floodplain spans 20 percent of its land base. Flooding in this area would directly impact more than 2,500 people in residential neighbourhoods and in the Semiahmoo First Nation. The environmental impacts include rising groundwater levels, saltwater intrusion, coastal squeeze and increased shoreline erosion. Some of the most vulnerable sectors in the region are agriculture, transportation and infrastructure. Parks, recreational areas and critical wildlife habitat are also at risk.

The city began developing the CFAS in 2016 and has engaged with residents, First Nations, community and environmental organizations, business groups, the agricultural community, neighbouring jurisdictions and other orders of government. The process of developing the CFAS also included a sophisticated technical assessment and modelling component.  Over the three-year planning process, a range of adaptation approaches were evaluated and refined using a values-based approach and meaningfully engaging participants in project decision-making, resulting in  longer-term strategic directions for each of the CFAS Planning Areas, as well as 46 program, policy, and Planning Area-Specific actions that can be taken over the short, medium and long-term.  This community-driven approach helped Surrey secure the largest federal grant the city has ever received—a grant of $76 million through the Disaster Mitigation Adaptation Fund (DMAF). This grant will assist the City of Surrey in implementing 13 projects valued at $187 million, which will advance initial phases of several CFAS Planning Area-Specific actions between 2019 and 2027. 

The city undertook a separate project to gain an understanding of the specific risks to critical infrastructure assets in the Mud Bay planning area (a subsection of the floodplain most vulnerable to flooding). This localized study, Improving Coastal Flood Adaptation Approaches (ICFAA), was informed by the analysis done while developing the CFAS, and the results fed back into the broader flood adaptation strategy. The process featured two workshops held in 2017, involving organizations that own, operate or have a direct interest in the infrastructure within the study area. Participants evaluated risks to infrastructure and discussed proposed solutions and options for sector collaboration with the city. Broad communication of the findings will help ensure that those who manage infrastructure take appropriate action to monitor and plan for risks.

The Coastal Flood Adaptation Strategy was finalized and approved by Surrey City Council in November 2019, and it now complements Surrey’s broader Climate Adaptation Strategy. In 2019, the City of Surrey was the inaugural winner in the new Climate Adaptation category of the Climate and Energy Action Awards for its strategy.

In 2019, beginning with the 13 DMAF projects, the implementation of the 46 actions identified in the final strategy document launched as a collaborative effort involving multiple city departments, outside agencies, senior levels of government and community-based organizations.

Project details

  • Projects: Surrey Coastal Flood Adaptation Strategy (CFAS) and Improving Coastal Flood Adaptation Approaches (ICFAA)
  • Sector: Climate change adaptation
  • Grant amount: 175,000.00 (CFAS) and 102,800.00 (ICFAA)
  • Project lead: Engineering Department

Primary objectives

  • Develop a broadly supported strategy to adapt to coastal flood impacts, through a participatory, collaborative decision-making process involving community members and other stakeholders.
    • Identify the current and future climate change impacts on Surrey’s coastal floodplain.
    • Assess the risks in six areas: flood management and drainage, infrastructure, ecosystems and natural areas, urban trees and landscaping, human health and safety and agriculture and food security.
    • Increase awareness and understanding of climate change risks among community members and city staff.
    • Identify specific adaptation goals and outline actions to achieve those goals over the short, medium and long term.
    • Conduct a separate study to assess and address infrastructure vulnerabilities, through an established risk assessment process that engages infrastructure organizations.

“With 20 per cent of Surrey’s land within the coastal floodplain area, it is vital that we take action now. I want to thank the federal government for the significant investment they have made today in helping us fight climate change. As a result of this new funding, the City of Surrey along with all of our partners will be able to increase and enhance the work we are doing to protect our coastal areas from flooding and other natural hazards. Once complete, these projects will significantly increase the region’s resiliency to flooding and provide residents with peace of mind knowing their community can continue to thrive through any situation.”

— Mayor Doug McCallum, May 24, 2019 (with respect to Surrey receiving funding through the federal Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund)

By the numbers

  • 2,000+ community members directly involved in creating the strategy, through workshops, open houses, focus groups, project surveys and other forms of engagement
  • 30+ organizations, agencies, local government partners, city committees and community groups engaged
  • 15 workshops:
    • 7 technical workshops, including 2 Greenshores™ shoreline design workshops, 2 PIEVC™ infrastructure operators workshops, and 2 design workshops with Dutch engineering design experts, UBC researchers, coastal regulators, and coastal stewards
    • 5 community workshops with 140+ Crescent Beach residents
    • 3 advisory group workshops with project stakeholders and partners, including local governments, infrastructure operators, provincial agencies, organizations, residents and farmers
  • 3 focus groups:
    • agriculture and farming
    • community and residential
    • environment and recreation
  • 6 meetings and site visits with Semiahmoo First Nation
  • 1000+ surveys completed online and at workshops and events
  • 500+ worksheets completed at workshops and events
  • 200+ Surrey youth engaged in sessions with high school students, youth events at City Hall, and 80 CFAS postcards completed by elementary school students
  • 250,000+ social media impressions, including comments on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn; YouTube views of CFAS video; visits to the CFAS website; and views of interactive StoryMaps
  • 10,000 community mailers sent to Surrey residents in the CFAS study area and beyond
  • 46 program and policy actions identified

Project activities

Coastal Flood Adaptation Strategy (CFAS):

  • Educate residents and stakeholders on the hazards of climate change and the local vulnerabilities.
  • Explore community values to inform the evaluation of options for flood protection and climate adaptation. 
  • Model, test and evaluate adaptation strategies based on engineering principles and economic, social, cultural and ecological indicators. 
  • Consult stakeholders and partners to refine the potential adaptation strategies and develop a shortlist of options.
  • Evaluate cost, funding and potential partnerships for a small number of robust, broadly supported adaptation strategies and identify preferred strategies.
  • Prepare the Coastal Flood Adaptation Strategy and present it to the public, mayor and council.

Improving Coastal Flood Adaptation Approaches (ICFAA):

  • Study flood-related risks to infrastructure in the Mud Bay planning area, and assess options for adaptation.
  • Engage infrastructure stakeholders through two workshops based on the Engineers Canada Public Infrastructure Engineering Vulnerability Committee (PIEVC) Protocol.
  • Use a triple bottom line approach (considering environmental, social, and economic factors) to evaluate adaptation options being considered for the CFAS.
  • Discuss how infrastructure organizations could coordinate with the city’s preferred large-scale approach.
  • Feed results back into the CFAS.

Resources

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