There’s been a bit of a brouhaha on the SEAS listserver between Mayor Nancy Cooper and others that has made the news. The issue mainly centres on how to best handle discussions on climate change as it relates to the Southern Alberta flooding as well as potential risks here. It is all about the intersection of straight-forward speaking, effective discussion, tact and commitment to preserving engagement with those with differing ideas.
Without going into the details (you can join SEAS yourself), here’s a link to the Kamloops Daily News article ‘Oilberta’ comments rile Salmon Arm :Shuswap conservationist blames climate change for flooding in Calgary (Fortems: June 26 2013).
Salmon Arm’s mayor rebuked a Shuswap conservationist Tuesday for what she said is insensitivity toward Albertans in a moment of crisis.
Out of that listserver discussion was an excellent post by George Zorn that I believe summarizes our local inaction here in Salmon Arm (re-posted with permission).
WA:TER and local Geotechnical Engineer, Calvin Van Buskirk have repeatedly asked Salmon Arm City Council (and B.C. Govt’s MoTI) to fund an updated Salmon River & Delta Flood Hazard and Risk Assessment to guide long term planning. What has happened in Alberta could/will happen on parts of Salmon Arm’s floodplain west of Shuswap Street.
WA:TER funded the attached May 30, 2011 BGC Engineering Salmon River & Delta Information Review and provided a copy of the Review to the City in June 2011.
On April 8, 2013 Calvin spoke at two WA:TER hosted public meetings in Salmon Arm. The map below shows the extent of flooding in Salmon Arm in June 1894 (red) in relation to the outdated 1991 Crippen flood plain mapping (blue). The Canadian Engineering frim, Klohn Crippen Berger, advised the City in a March 1, 2013 letter that the outdated 1991 flood plain mapping, “…should not be relied upon for current engineering works or public safety policies.” The photo below shows the 1894 flood level in Kamloops (top line) and three other flood level markers.
For more information on the Salmon River Delta and Flood Risk: http://www.wa-ter.ca/flood.html
Three City Council member (Mayor Cooper, Councillor Reimer and Councillor Jamieson) voted in November 2012 to budget seed money (federal funding may also be available) to complete an updated flood risk assessment. Four City Council members voted against the flood risk assessment seed money motion. When this assessment is eventually completed will City Council have will to implement it’s key recommendations? Alberta’s politicians did not have the will to even make public the 2006 Flood Mitigation Report until 2012. What can we learn?
From my perspective, climate change exists (regardless of disagreements over the cause) and that prudent and active local risk mitigation is as important as larger scale (and after-the-fact) initiatives.
Climate change adds greater uncertainty to risks and hazards and there is an increased need to factor in not just historical evidence but future projections … and that would involve science and risk mitigation.
Perhaps council can do a few things here. First, re-visit the conversation and the decision to invest in an updated flood risk assessment.
Secondly, how about council putting forward a motion for this fall’s UBCM convention that seeks support from municipalities to have the province take on the responsibilities for further critical floodplain assessments?
Given Alberta’s current clean-up cost estimates of 5 billion dollars plus, the costs of a provincial climate change, flood risk assessment and disaster risk mitigation initiative should be seen as a responsible investment.
… and by the way, let’s also keep on with respectful discussion and engagement.
* Images from WA:TER’s website.