The City of Moncton, NB: Flood Mitigation and Neighbourhood Vulnerability Assessment

Given that the Greater Moncton Area (GMA) has been experiencing extreme maritime weather events, such as increased precipitation, the City of Moncton has taken on a proactive approach to future flooding risks by releasing its “Climate Change Adaptation and Flood Management Strategy” in 2013, which included 69 action items. Actions included by-law modifications, updated storm sewer design criteria, and backwater valve installation incentives. The City has linked its 2013 plan to its current Strategic Plan and routinely looks to incorporate the recommendations into all future city initiatives. An ongoing challenge Moncton faces in advancing their climate change adaptation strategic plan is getting the public to buy-into the long-term vision.

Understanding and Assessing Impacts

The City of Moncton initiated a climate change adaptation initiative in 2010 by participating to Natural Resources Canada’s (NRCan) Regional Adaptation Collaborative (RAC) program. The City will be impacted by storm surges, with greater precipitation and erosion, as well as challenges posed by a tidal river (Petitcodiac River) and low-lying areas. The City has linked its 2013 Climate Change Adaptation Plan to its current Strategic Plan and routinely looks to incorporate the recommendations into all future City initiatives. In Eastern Canada, the primary hazard associated with climate change is increasing frequency and intensity of storm events. Erosion, fluvial flooding from the Petitcodiac River, and high tidal range are also factors in the area’s hydrodynamic location. Since the development of its 2013 Climate Change Adaptation and Flood Management Strategy, which identified key vulnerabilities and 69 action to help mitigate the impacts of climate change, the City has amalgamated some of these action items into the 2016-2020 Strategic Plan, including: increasing the minimum habitable space elevation requirements for new building construction include in the zoning by-law, conducting a Neighbourhood Flood Mitigation Study, and identifying the costs associated with potential solutions. The City has also made progress in applying climate change information to asset management planning, and an asset management plan was completed in 2019.

Identifying Actions

Once the first climate change study was finalized (Climate Change Adaptation Measures for the Greater Moncton Area) and presented to City Council, staff were tasked with completing a Climate Change Adaptation and Flood Management Strategy using the findings of the study to better prepare for extreme climate events. To correspond with the eight recommendations laid out in the technical report, Moncton proposed eight strategic priorities to help mitigate the impacts of climate change. Each priority included several action items for better adaptation planning for the City. These strategic priorities are:

  1. Development of a major storm/hurricane/flood emergency response plan
  2. Enhanced community engagement (education, consultation and partnerships)
  3. Research, planning, and priority setting
  4. Adaptation policies and regulations
  5. Physical adaptation
  6. Monitoring
  7. Funding
  8. Oversight and ongoing updates

Many of the action items identified within the Climate Change Adaptation Plan have been amalgamated into the City’s 2016-2020 Strategic Plan, with proposed timelines associated with the key areas of focus.

Implementation

Under the ‘adaptation policies and regulations’ priority, the City modified existing by-laws and policies. Under zoning by-law Z-213, minimum habitable space elevation requirements were increased from 10.2 metres to 10.5 metres. Setbacks from watercourses were set to 30 metres, preventing new developments from building in higher flood risk zones. In total, 19 action items were identified as proposed solutions to reduce the potential impacts of surface flooding within the City. The City proposed and has since adopted a net-zero stormwater increase policy to help reduce stormwater run-off volumes and has also established additional landscaping and urban planning provisions to assist with reducing stormwater run-off through parking lot design, tree planting and more. The ‘physical adaptation’ priority included two primary courses of action. The first was continued funding of the Backwater Valve Incentive Program for existing homeowners to mitigate sewer backup and basement flooding. The second action was to undertake an in-depth Neighbourhood Flood Mitigation Study. In 2018, the City contracted an engineering firm to assess neighbourhood vulnerabilities and recommend structural and non-structural flood mitigation measures for both assessed areas. This report was presented to City Council in 2019 and the engineering design for the selected measures is underway.

Outcomes and Monitoring Progress

An ongoing challenge Moncton, and many communities face, in advancing climate change adaptation activities is effectively engaging the public to develop their buy-in. Despite a general desire among the public for adaptation solutions, gaining acceptance of the proposed alternatives can be difficult. Some of the efforts Moncton has made to improve public engagement on climate change initiatives includes regular public council meetings as well as providing opportunities for residents to voice concerns. Incremental progress has been a focus for City staff. While the City routinely looks for funding programs and other opportunities to further address this issue, collaborative programs such as the RAC partnership have had the greatest impact to the community. Strategic partnerships and collaborative funding can be instrumental in ensuring municipalities have the resources to effectively ascertain the feasibility of climate change activities and programs, as well as implementing the proposed activities. For example, partnering with Atlantic Climate Adaptation Solutions Association and NRCan allowed Moncton to organize efforts towards an effective adaptation plan. Capitalizing on the knowledge of subject experts to develop climate adaptation programs can also simplify and optimize the process.

Next Steps

Climate change will continue to be an important component of Moncton’s Strategic Plan moving forward. In the near future, the entire Stormwater and Sewer System Master Plan will be under review, and additional action items can be added or modified to meet the needs outlined in the Adaptation Plan. The Water Treatment Facility Management Plan will also be reviewed in 2019.