A University of Victoria professor is predicting some extreme weather this winter that could bash the shoreline infrastructure of coastal communities, but Parksville and Qualicum Beach officials have no firm plans to prepare for Mother Nature’s onslaught.
B.C. coastal communities need to prepare for the possibility of extreme flooding and erosion that come with both El Niño and La Niña weather systems, according to a new study published this week in Nature Geoscience.
According to UVic, this is the first study to show how these climate variability events are linked to greater erosion and flooding in coastal regions across the Pacific Ocean. Researchers from 13 different institutions including the University of Victoria analyzed wave, water level and shoreline response data to identify the impacts of both El Niño and La Niña on coastal flooding and erosion, including in B.C.
“It’s not just El Niño we should be concerned about,” said Ian Walker, UVic geography professor and co-author of the study. “Our research shows that severe coastal erosion and flooding can occur along the B.C. coast during both El Niño and La Niña storm seasons, unlike further south in California. We need to prepare not only for this winter, but also for what could follow when La Niña comes.”
In March, City of Parksville director of engineering Vaughn Figueira presented council with a consultant’s report on how the city might protect against the damage caused by King tides and winter storms. The money — more than $100,000) for that work was approved, also in March.
“Right now we’re working with the consultant too determine the best time to get in there (to do the work),” Figueira said this week.
He said the best windows for the work are June 1-Sept 1 and Dec. 1-
Feb. 15. Figueira said the city is shooting for that Dec. 1-Feb. 15 window, but this winter might pass without any reinforcements.
“We haven’t received approval yet (from the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans) for that winter window, but that’s what we are shooting for,” he said.
Back in March, Figueira told council the city should “get it done before the winter in the event we get some king tides and big storms.”
Figueira also said in March the Arbutus Point section of the Parksville Bay — closest to the Surfside RV Park — is a “mess.” Many of the storms that carry rock and material onto the sandy beach section in the park hit this area first, crashing against the steep rock wall of Surfside.
“We need to really do something there,” he told council.
At that time, Coun. Al Greir seemed to voice concerns that have been heard both outside and inside the council chambers.
“We’re going to end up with a rocky beach rather than a sandy beach,” he said.
Figueira said he believed the consultant’s plan for huge, anchored logs, large cobble and then progressively small riprap (rocks), in a 10 to 1 slope, at Arbutus Point would address that fear.
“This type of shore protection is working quite well” in other locations on the east side of Vancouver Island, he said.
Meanwhile, Qualicum Beach has no plans this year to address erosion.
The town, like Parksville, has spent about $100,000 on a consultant, the first stage of a waterfront master plan that has erosion issues front and centre. Still, there are no plans to shore up the shore before this winter, said the town’s director of engineering Bob Weir.
“A big part of the problem is a large part of the waterfront is privately owned,” said Weir, who recalled some big storms of past years.
“We’ve been hammered hard in the past,” said Weir. “We know well what typically will come at us — this year we might just get more of it.”