By guest writer
No one in Lynn Valley needs to be reminded that their neighbourhood sees more rain than anywhere else in the Greater Vancouver region. The area gets about 2,500 mm of precipitation every year while the airport receives about 1,400 mm.
This brings up the question of heavy rains that can lead to flooding, and what to do about it. In November 2014 a heavy rainfall in Lynn Valley caused creeks to overflow their banks and turned quiet streets into rivers. Up to 17 homes were evacuated and at least 20 homes suffered water damage. Mud and water from Hastings Creek also washed into Argyle Secondary, damaging about eight classrooms and shutting the school down.
What can be done to prevent similar flooding damage in the future? According to experts, climate change will bring more winter rains to the North Shore, and more heavy storms. There is nothing that can be done to avoid it – but taking simple measures like ensuring the storm drains by your home are clear of leaves and debris can help fend off a wet basement.
Another factor is heavy urbanization, which means water can’t drain properly as it once did before housing was built in Lynn Valley. What we’re doing in the urban environment is making much of the landscape impervious. The water can no longer infiltrate the ground and as a result it runs over the surface into creeks, which are no longer able to handle the extra water.
Experts say steep neighbourhoods like the Lynn Valley region are going to need “innovative” storm management solutions going forward. Some suggestions include building driveways with more pervious materials, or even making grass driveways; creating rain gardens; or adding more topsoil beneath lawns for water absorption. But on a larger scale, North Shore roads and parking lots need to be re-designed. Instead of funnelling water into streams and pipes, cities could consider making better use of solutions like swale features. A swale is a low tract of moist or marshy land that can be artificially created to manage water runoff, filter pollutants and increase rainwater infiltration. [For example, you can see a sample of some of the North Vancouver District’s interesting proposals for stormwater management on page 18 of this report on Lynn Creek Town Centre’s public realm guidelines.]
Meantime, many Lynn Valley homeowners don’t know if they are covered for these types of floods. The Insurance Bureau of Canada says severe flooding in Alberta a few years ago raised questions about insurance coverage all across Canada. Incidents of severe weather have caused insurers to have conversations with the federal government about what the future of flood insurance will be. Insured damage in Canada in 2013 topped $3.2 billion, the highest on record.
Some insurers have changed policies and increased deductibles but increasing claims are created more pressure on premiums. Residents of Lynn Valley need to have a frank discussion with their insurance provider about their needs. Generally, homeowners are covered in the event of a sewer backup if they have a water endorsement on their policy, but overland flooding is not covered. Make sure you know what your risks are!