North Saanich staff are assessing the consequences of the recent heavy rainfall that drenched the municipality and rest of the region, but the event is already shaping future planning.
Erik Lambertson, North Saanich’s manager of communications and engagement, said municipal infrastructure, utilities and facilities are currently undergoing a thorough assessment.
“The most obvious damage occurred on Chalet Road, where the water main was offline for part of Monday,” he said. “Public Works crews successfully repaired the main later that day.
“In general, low-lying areas in the district were the most stressed by the rainfall, and the storm drainage system was stressed past its capacity.”
Lambertson said the municipality will determine costs and timelines once staff have a full picture of the consequences of the rainfall.
This said, the heavy rainfall has underscored issues around climate change. “The extreme rainfall, as well as the heat dome we experienced in the summer, show that we need to do our part to reduce GHG emissions to mitigate climate change, as well as adapt to a changing climate,” he said.
The current review of the Official Community Plan (OCP) offers an opportunity to look at all the key themes through a climate lens, he added.
“We can integrate climate change planning into this review by developing robust policies that will ensure that we meet our targets for GHG emission reductions and that we adapt to extreme weather events (as) hotter, drier summers and wetter winters are likely to become the norm in the future,” he said.
Goals of the OCP review process include the drafting of specific policy directions to address climate-related issues and opportunities, Lambertson added. These include setting realistic GHG reduction targets; planning for sea-level rise; encouraging energy-efficient and climate-friendly buildings and EV charging stations; planning sustainable transportation modes; considering the impacts of waste management; and laying the groundwork for a sustainable land use pattern that integrates with BC Transit.
The OCP will also include development permit areas for new buildings that will include how stormwater is managed and ensure adequate setbacks from creeks, streams, and natural areas that serve a critical role during events like the recent one. “One of the clear takeaways from the rainfall is the importance of protecting natural areas and systems,” he said.
The District of North Saanich council declared a climate emergency in June 2019 and set a goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2030.
Lambertson said the municipality also established the climate change select committee (CCSC) for recommendations to address climate change with its 2020 report offering recommendations in five categories: municipal operations, community engagement, transportation, buildings, and natural asset management.
Municipal staff are also reviewing the municipality’s drainage master plan to identify service levels, system deficiencies, priorities for potential upgrades, long-term operations and maintenance of the drainage system.
“We’d also like to suggest that this recent heavy rainfall is a timely reminder of the importance of planning for emergencies,” said Lambertson. “We encourage residents to develop an emergency plan, put together an emergency kit, and connect with neighbours.”
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