Robert’s column

Local waterfront properties may pay a price

Robert’s column

One of the most appealing attractions for me when I first moved to Vancouver Island was the close proximity many homeowners have to water; whether it be ocean, lake or rivers.

With B.C. known for its incredible natural beauty, having a home close to water was a goal of many.

I fell so in love with the lifestyle that I lived in a small sea-side apartment that was just a few feet from the ocean for almost seven years before I finally bought a house and had to settle for a more urban existence.

But it now appears that anyone who lives near rivers and other water bodies in the province, including the Cowichan Valley, could soon pay a steep price for their choice of location.

It may seem irrelevant right now as we watch the local rivers and lakes dry up again as we enter another drought season. But increased flooding in these days of climate change is expected across the country, including here, in the future.

It’s gotten so serious that the federal government is planning to release new flood maps for all areas of the country next year that will indicate which regions are now more at risk of flooding in this new era of global warming.

The new flood maps will be closely studied by the nation’s insurance companies when they are released, and some are already speculating that as many as five per cent of those newly at-risk properties will be simply uninsurable.

A lot of reports I’ve read recently from various agencies dealing with future development in the Valley consistently state that we’ll likely get drier summers than usual in the future, and winters that will see more periodic episodes of heavy rain.

One has to look just 10 years ago in 2009 to know what can happen here when heavy winter rain hits.

In late November of that year, a series of frontal systems hit coastal B.C., and flood warnings were issued across Vancouver Island as several rivers experienced very high flows.

Following more than a week of steady rain, the Cowichan and Koksilah rivers and several creeks overflowed their banks, flooding more than 50 homes in the area, with dozens experiencing water right up to their doorknobs.

Residents were evacuated, roads and schools were flooded and closed, and property damage was extensive.

Charles Brindamour, CEO of Intact Insurance, one of Canada’s biggest insurance companies, calls climate change an “existential” threat.

He warns that if you’re living in a zone that gets flooded repeatedly, or where the odds of being flooded has increased meaningfully, it’ll soon be hard to find insurance from private capital.

A report, produced by a national working group co-chaired by the Insurance Bureau of Canada and Public Safety Canada,

released earlier this week estimates about one-fifth of homes in Canada are currently at risk of flooding, while insurance payouts have surged to about $1 billion per year in the country over the past six years alone.

The report concluded by expressing the importance of creating more public awareness and encouraging homeowners to take steps to limit their risk, or to take even more drastic steps, like moving.

I’d suggest all local property owners take a close look at those new flood maps when they are released next year.

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