Many B.C. communities lack resources to create floodplain maps, study suggests

Many B.C. communities are looking to rebuild after an atmospheric river system brought devastating floods and landslides to the South Coast.

But a recent study has found that several communities across the province don’t have the resources available to create or maintain floodplain maps, and the results can be catastrophic.

The B.C. floodplain maps inventory report was published in June, in a collaboration between the British Columbia Real Estate Association and the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus.

It said that since 2015, only 38.5 per cent of communities surveyed had created or updated floodplain maps, which help to identify areas that experience periodic flooding.

Dr. Nahid Uzzaman, an assistant professor in engineering at UBC, joined CTV Morning Live Tuesday to discuss the importance of floodplain maps.

Uzzaman pointed to a lack of funding and expertise as barriers to creating or updating floodplain maps on a regular basis.

“The data is also not available to the communities, which might make them unable to act right when it comes to planning flooding related issues.”

With a third atmospheric river in less than a week expected to hit the region Tuesday, there are growing concerns the heavy rain will cause further damage to flood-ravaged communities in B.C.

“(Floodplain maps) are a key and critical foundation for land use policies,” Uzzaman said. “If local governments would like to approve any new settlements in the form of subdivisions then floodplain maps play an important role, to what extent that it would be safe and sound and it’s not subject to any damages.”

In the report, BCREA CEO Darlene K. Hyde said the effects of climate change are being showcased in the province now more than ever.

“Recent flooding and this summer’s unprecedented wildfires highlight that we can no longer delay in preparing our communities for the impacts of climate change," Hyde said.

Hyde added that the need for climate resilient communities should be at the forefront.

Many British Columbians have lost their livelihoods and some have watched their homes being washed away in the devastating floods.

Uzzaman said the time to act is now.

“Time is very critical now. We should be looking back to all those land use policies to see how to make them more resilient,” he said.

“With this increasing upheaval of climate change impacts…we really have to make sure we have the capability to be able to be resilient in those extreme situations.”