Richmond resident questions city's dike protection in wake of storm

How high should dikes be?

Last week’s rain storm — the atmospheric river that swept across southern B.C. and had Richmond pumping almost a million gallons of water per minute — is what scientists call a “black swan,” something so rare it catches everyone off guard.

Steveston resident John Roston was sounding the alarm this week about the height of Richmond’s dikes, worried whether the city is working fast enough, especially given sea levels are rising faster than in the last century.

This is particularly troubling for him as he lives just a few hundred metres from the Fraser River.

While the city is focused on raising the dikes about a metre in anticipation of sea-level rise rates in 2100, Roston wants to see the focus on the two metres that it’s expected to rise over the next two hundred years. In fact, worst-case scenarios from scientists say two metres could be achieved by the end of this century.

“Even two metres instead of one metre has a profound impact for Richmond,” Roston said.

However, as city spokesperson Clay Adams pointed out, the city’s timeline for raising dikes by about a metre has been moved up by 25 years.

Furthermore, he clarified, the city is “constantly monitoring emerging climate data and updating the plans accordingly.”

City Coun. Carol Day responded to Roston’s concerns saying she’s confident the accelerated diking plan reflects “where we need to be.”

Day said she has reports “up the wazoo” about the work the City of Richmond is doing, for example, building super dikes on Duck Island and planning a new dike on Sturgeon Banks.

“Climate action is on top of everybody’s mind right now… (but) it doesn’t serve any purpose to raise alarms without looking at what’s already being done and the steps that are in process right now,” Day said.

She added, though, she takes concerns from Richmond residents seriously, but she’d also like to see the city do more to let Richmondites know about the work being done on the dikes.

Roston said he’s not surprised by the reaction from Day, but much of the information he has is from city staff’s own reports.

During last week’s storm, the city’s 39 pumps along its 49 kilometres of dikes moved about 18 million cubic metres of water over three days in total.

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