In June, the striking images from Calgary and surrounding area were a sobering reminder that flooding poses catastrophic risks to economic vitality, safety, environment, property owners and communities. Planning in advance to avoid or minimize flood damage is far less expensive than responding to an emergency. BC has an opportunity now to implement effective measures to avoid disaster.
Not many people know that almost 70 per cent of the existing floodplain maps available online from the BC government are at least 20 years old. Experts recommend that floodplain maps should be updated every ten years.
A floodplain map shows areas that are subject to high flood hazard, and helps form the foundation on which many decisions are made about how and where communities grow. Outdated maps pose a major challenge to governments and the business community, as they rely on accurate, up-to-date information for land use planning, emergency response management and capital investments. Outdated floodplain maps also compromise the ability of decision makers to effectively assess and manage flood risks, putting BC communities in jeopardy.
In April, BCREA published a Floodplain Maps Action Plan, which outlines 21 key actions required to update existing floodplain maps and keep them current.
The Floodplain Maps Action Plan was generated by nearly 70 decision makers and practitioners involved with flood management, land use and emergency management at a March workshop in Vancouver. Participants expressed their shared concerns for BC communities and discussed the technical, financial and political challenges and opportunities to updating existing floodplain maps.
An important step is to make the case for and then acquire political support with respect to the importance and urgency of floodplain mapping. Floodplain maps, and preventative flood management policies and practices, can save significant future costs with a relatively modest investment.
The cost implications in the long term of taking limited or no action is significant. Federal, provincial and local governments spend tens, or even hundreds of millions of dollars to repair flooding damage, as well as the significant time, money and emotional fortitude required of individuals, families and the business community to clean up after a flood.
Elected officials and senior executives within federal, provincial and local governments will need to be approached to obtain this support in a timely fashion. A coordinated effort that involves professional associations, foundations, the business and consulting community, academia and non-governmental organizations will be essential in delivering a collective and coordinated call for action.
Flood management impacts the entire province, including every community and every citizen, and BCREA looks forward to working with stakeholders around the province to increase awareness and carry out actions to update floodplain maps.
The Floodplain Maps Action Plan and quarterly progress reports are available at www.bcrea.bc.ca/government-relations