Steveston dykes to be probed

A three-kilometre dyke that shields Steveston from flooding will be the first Lulu Island embankment probed in a new city-led study.

City hall has issued a call for an engineering consultant to begin studying the 49-kilometre dyke surrounding Richmond’s main island, designed to offer protection from river and ocean flooding.

Budgeted at $200,000, Phase 1 of the Lulu Island Dyke Master Plan will focus on a section of dyke stretching from Garry Point to London Farm, some of which is incorporated into existing roads—such as Bayview Street—and is adjacent to urban development. It’s a challenging area for dyke engineers, compounded by heritage structures, a working harbour and sensitive habitat.

It’s also seen by developers as prime real estate.

“Steveston is probably the most complex places that we have on the island, and there is a lot of development happening, so we wanted to target that first,” said John Irving, the city’s director of engineering.

A significant portion of Steveston’s waterfront is managed by the Steveston Harbour Authority, which leases 17.5 hectares (43.2 acres) of land from Fisheries and Oceans Canada. But the city also owns portions of land, along with private landowners such as Onni, which is beginning construction on its waterfront site at Imperial Landing.

City staff say concerns over sea level rise is also prompting the study.

“It’s something we need to constantly stay on top of,” said Irving. “In spite of the fact that we’re probably better protected today with the dyke infrastructure that we have in place than we ever have been, we need to keep our eye on the ball for the future.”

Earlier this year the province issued a report suggesting sea levels will rise faster and greater than previously thought. The report, “Climate Change Adaption Guidelines for Sea Dikes and Coastal Flood Hazard Land Use,” predicted a half-metre rise in sea levels by 2050, and one metre by 2100.

City hall already has a cabinet of studies and reports related to flood protection and seismic issues, including the 2008-2031 Richmond Flood Protection Strategy. Irving said that strategy largely identified risks, while this new report will be a kilometre-by-kilometre analysis of how the dyke could be improved.

The consultant is expected to have Phase 1 complete by May 2012. The entire study, said Irving, would be finished over the course of another few years.

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