Climate change and floodplain development

Climate change and floodplain development

Houston and Miami are close to home; but even closer our Cowichan estuary and floodplain!

Climate change and floodplain development

Barely recovering from the effects of Hurricane Katrina — until recently known as the most costly natural disaster in the history of the United States — the mighty U.S. is hit yet again by the even larger, more destructive, and deadlier cyclone Harvey. Economists agree: another Harvey and no insurance will be able to cover the costs for reconstruction. Worse, still shell-shocked from what has happened to Houston, which must be the world’s capital of climate denialists, two more hurricanes are ready to make landfall in Florida after leaving a string of devastated Caribbean Islands in their wake: powerhouse storm Irma, with Hurricane Jose on her heels, and yet more developing.

If this is not a wake-up call what else has to happen before we start seriously thinking about the irresponsible development in floodplains worldwide? New York, New Orleans, Houston and Miami are close to home; but even closer our Cowichan estuary and floodplain! With catastrophic floods becoming the new normal, when do local decision-makers start paying heed to the scientific evidence of warming temperatures, rising sea levels, and more intense storms causing these disastrous floods? No doubt catastrophic floods will increase in frequency and severity as a result of climate change and poor land use management like in Houston. It is not a question “if”, but “when” such monster will hit Cowichan Bay.

Against this background it appears totally unacceptable to possibly allow for any new development in the lower Cowichan floodplain. It would be outright irresponsible to permit heavy manufacturing industry to settle in the heart of the estuary. This could happen if the CVRD decides in favour of the current rezoning application linked to six Crown leases affiliated with the Westcan Terminal. It is predictable that the Westcan area, being located barely two feet above the high water mark, would be the first to be flooded following a catastrophic storm with all its disastrous ecological and economic consequences! And guess who would be stuck with the bill for the clean-up and rehabilitation, not the operator, not the decision makers, but you and me! And wait for our insurance premiums to rise exponentially in the aftermath!

Why not pay heed to the CVRD’s current work on New Normal Cowichan, the multi-phased project aimed to be proactive and adapting to climate change instead of business as usual. Phase 2 of the project (Vulnerability and Risk Assessment) led by the CVRD’s environmental services division, will undoubtedly show that any new development in the floodplain poses an unjustified risk and should not be permitted. Just think about it and make your voice heard. Oppose the rezoning application!

Goetz Schuerholz

A concerned citizen of the Valley