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

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

Amanda Parsons, a registered nurse on staff at the Northwood Care facility, prepares a dose of the Moderna vaccine in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. Almost two in three Canadians surveyed recently said they trust COVID-19 vaccines to be both safe and effective. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Northern Health to open 30 COVID vaccine clinics for oldest residents, Indigenous seniors

Health authority says it plans to vaccinate nearly 15,000 people in Phase Two

The Majagaleehl Gali Aks Elementary School in Hazelton is being shut down for a week by the Gitanmaax Band Council following a confirmation of a COVID-19 exposure there on Feb. 26. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Hazelton school COVID-19 closure extended one week

With spring break on horizon, Majagaleehl Gali Aks Elementary will be closed to end of March

BC CDC graphic showing weekly numbers of new cases by local health area.
Local health area records 11 new COVID-19 cases from Feb. 21 to 27

The Northwest has become the COVID hotspot in the province

The Smithers recycling depot was destroyed by fire May 9, 2019. (Thom Barker photo)
Curbside recycling pickup returns to Smithers

The Town will start collecting single stream, loose and clean residential recyclables April 12

Adam's Igloo sustained serious damage when the roof collapsed. (Facebook photo)
Roof collapses on Smithers landmark

Cleanup efforts underway at Adams Igloo and Wildlife Museum

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

Sarah Cotton-Elliott said she believed her children took a back seat to arranging equal parenting

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Ex-B.C. teacher who was CFL kicker charged with assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Sweet taught in Mission School District for 10 years, investigators seek further witnesses

Most Read