Vancouver is at risk of losing landmark communities like Granville Island and False Creek unless the city starts taking measures to defend its shoreline against rising sea levels, an urban planner warns.
Andrew Yan, a planner and researcher with Bing Thom Architects, estimates the city will have to spend upwards of $510 million to build and upgrade the dikes and seawalls - plus billions more to buy the land to put them on - over the next century.
"What's under threat in Vancouver is a lot of our identity; our beaches, our seawall ... this is what makes Vancouver such a livable place," Yan said. "We just need to look at Granville Island and its exposure to sea level rise and what may be required to defend it."
Vancouver isn't the only city under threat.
Richmond's Steveston, which has experienced huge residential growth along its waterfront in recent years, will face significant pressures in the future, Yan said, while south Surrey's Crescent Beach is already being threatened by a more insidious force: increasing groundwater from rising ocean tides.
"It affects every municipality that touches the water," Yan said. "Sea level rise isn't going to separate itself from the boundaries of Vancouver, Burnaby, Richmond or Surrey. We'd better be serious about this. It's important to plan now as opposed to 50 or 70 years from now."
The report illustrated a number of sea level rise scenarios, from one to six metres, which could affect between three and 13 per cent of the city's land mass. For instance, sea level rise at the three-metre interval, combined with a severe storm in 2100, would affect most of the city's shoreline, including the harbour, the southern edge of the city and Granville Island.
And it gets worse: At the four-metre interval, False Creek would revert to its 19th-century boundaries, while Gastown, Chinatown and the harbour would be heavily affected. And at five-and six-metre intervals, the report warns, downtown Vancouver would become an archipelago and the city's coast-line would be "unrecognizable" compared to today's.