Friday, December 19, 2008

Will Water street be under water next century?

I'm sitting at the dock of the bay,
watching the tide roll away,
sitting on the dock of the bay,
wasting time... ---Otis Redding, Dock of the Bay

Most of us will be long gone from this world, let alone Prince Rupert by the time the waters rise, but according to a provincial report the rising sea levels of the world will make for a one metre increase in our sea level on the North coast by 2100.

Global warming and the melting of continental glaciers will provide the added liquidity to the worlds oceans, making for the need to prepare future municipal plans accordingly to take into account the changing nature of our coastlines and ocean setting.

The Daily news featured the story as the front page headline item in Thursday's paper.

New provincial report suggests sea level will be one metre higher within next 100 years
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Thursday, December 18, 2008

Pages one and two

A report released by the province of B.C. claims that Prince Rupert will experience rising sea levels by 2100.

Projected Sea Level Changes for British Columbia in the 21st Century reports that the coastal waters will rise one metre above their current levels, meaning dangers for infrastructure around the city.

"This has been under discussion for many years now," said local ecology expert Dr. Barb Faggetter who heads research vessel Ocean Ecology.

Faggetter said that talk about rising sea leaves itself is not new and the degree to how high it seas will rise has been debated quite thoroughly.

The report warns that the 21st century is expected to witness a continued rise in global average sea levels as a result of the melting of continental glaciers and ice caps, and warming (expansion) of the upper ocean.

On the regional scale, sea levels will change in response to these global effects, as well as local effects, including ocean and weather conditions and vertical movements of the land due to geological processes.

Consequently, the expected changes in sea level for the British Columbia coast will differ from the global projections and they will not be uniform.

Such changes to the regional coastline means that municipalities along with regional districts, provinces and the government of Canada are going to need to look more closely at how such a change in the coastal environment will change the current stock if infrastructure, according to Faggetter.

She thinks that communities such as Prince Rupert and Port Edward are going to have to make sure they have included the environmental change in any future plans.

One plan that may be affected is the city's Liquid Waste Management Plan, which is currently going through Stage 1 of its three-stage planning process. It will need to take in to account sea level change.

Faggetter sat on the city's advisory committee for the LWMP and said that it was going to be one of the issues that will be addressed.

"We'll make sure that the outfalls and the (treatment) plants and everything that is associated with that is sufficiently above sea level - that we are not going to have to worry about those in the near future," said Faggetter.

The report also warns that the Queen Charlotte Islands is a particularly vulnerable area.
Faggetter said that the highway from the south of Graham Island to Massett would be particularly vulnerable because it is very close to sea-level in places.

"In fact, on very stormy weather they get sea water on top of the road and so that road is basically going to get washed out," said Faggetter.

The primary mechanisms that determine the level of the sea relative to the land are changes in global ocean volume due to melting of ice caps, continental ice sheets and mountain glaciers; global and regional changes in ocean volume due to thermal expansion and salinity effects on water density (warmer, fresher water occupies more volume than colder, saltier water); regional volume changes due to dynamic atmospheric and ocean processes, such as shifting major wind systems and ocean currents; and local changes due to vertical land motions, associated with recovery from the weight of glaciers during the last Ice Age rebounding), subsidence (sinking) in river deltas, and tectonic processes in the earth's crustal plates.

The report adds that while the general nature of these mechanisms over large geographical areas is well understood, the details at the local scale are not.

Faggetter said that regional communities should react now to mitigate problems associated with rising sea levels.

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