Home » Flood Strategy » LMFMS FAQs

FAQs on Draft 1 of the Lower Mainland Flood Management Strategy

The following questions and responses were prepared by the Fraser Basin Council (FBC) team based on past and anticipated questions on the Lower Mainland Flood Management Strategy. The responses represent the information available to FBC as of September 2021. Input from partner and participating organizations is encouraged and may influence the direction on some of the issues addressed here. After Draft 2 has been prepared, the FAQ will be updated accordingly. If you have any questions or suggestions, please send them to floodstrategy@fraserbasin.bc.ca.

Strategy Development and Finalization

The LMFMS initiative (2014-present) is aimed at reducing flood risks and improving flood resilience in the Lower Mainland. This proactive, collaborative initiative by governments and others with flood responsibilities in the Lower Mainland is based on concerns that the region could suffer significant losses in the event of a major Fraser River or coastal flood. Technical analyses undertaken as part of this initiative have validated these concerns and deepened our understanding of flood hazard and risk.

Reducing flood risk regionally is important because floods are not constrained by administrative boundaries, and a major flood in the region would have impacts well beyond the flooded area. Moreover, flood management activities in one area can impact neighbouring communities, so regional-scale coordination of those activities would increase efficiency and help avoid conflicts and duplication of effort. The LMFMS presents the first comprehensive, holistic and collaborative approach to flood risk reduction for this region.

Since the LMFMS initiative began in 2014, it has involved individuals from over 60 organizations representing the federal, provincial, First Nations and local governments and non-government entities with flood management interests and responsibilities. A list of organizations is provided in Appendix A of Draft 1 (NB: This list will be updated in Draft 2). Individuals from these organizations have participated as members of the Joint Program Committee, Leadership Committee and other advisory committees and as workshop attendees. The Fraser Basin Council, as facilitator of the initiative, prepared Draft 1 with input and advice from many of these individuals and organizations.

Draft 1 was circulated for review and comment by all organizations that have participated in the process to date through invitations to their elected leadership and/or senior staff including First Nations Chiefs, Mayors, Regional District Chairs, CAOs/General Managers, Deputy Ministers, Regional Directors and others. Draft 1 was also circulated for review by the Emergency Planning Secretariat to about 300 First Nations contacts spanning 31 Mainland Coast Salish First Nations communities with flood-related interests.

In addition to this FAQ, a briefing note on Draft 1, webinar recording on Draft 1, and briefing note for First Nations on the strategy development process have been developed to assist with organizations’ review of Draft 1.

The commenting period for participating government and non-government organizations on Draft 1 closed on May 31, 2021. A Report on What We Heard in Draft 1 was prepared in July 2021 to summarize the input received as of June. Due to the breadth and diversity of feedback received, further engagement and discussions are required to improve our collective understanding of issues, interests, and concerns – and preferred approaches to address them – before we can proceed to the next draft of the strategy. The FBC team has initiated a series of engagement sessions with organizations which will extend into early 2022.

Input will be considered on all Draft 1 content, including the strategy vision, goals and objectives and all individual recommendations. This will assist in preparation of Draft 2.

Given the diversity of organizations, interests and priorities across the region, differing input is anticipated. If the disagreement is minor, careful rewording might achieve an acceptable middle ground. For more significant differences (e.g., a recommendation that receives both strong support and strong opposition), further analysis or further engagement with relevant parties or LMFMS committees might be required to find possible solutions.

In some cases, comments will be specific to the mandate and needs of a given order of government or other entity. For example, comments from First Nations on recommendations that pertain directly to First Nations governance would be prioritized.

Organizations’ level of support for the draft recommended actions will be identified during the review periods for Draft 1 and Draft 2. Organizations are encouraged to express any major concerns as early as possible in the review process. Based on feedback at each stage, the draft will be revised and refined with the goal of increasing the depth and breadth of support. Areas of significant conflict or opposition that cannot be resolved over the coming months may have to be removed and/or addressed through other mechanisms, potentially as part of the implementation stage or future updates of the LMFMS.

It is not expected that all governments will “sign off” on all recommendations in the final strategy. The aim is to have as many governments and other organizations as possible endorse in principle the strategy as whole (including the goals, vision and objectives) and endorse as many of the individual recommendations as possible.

FBC will be engaging with the Leadership Committee, Joint Program Committee and First Nations to better understand what mechanisms for endorsement are appropriate and feasible for each order of government. Your organization’s perspectives on this issue are welcome during the Draft 1 and subsequent commenting periods.

Benefits and responsibilities associated with strategy endorsement will be clarified as the strategy is further refined and agreement on policy directions is confirmed. An endorsement in principle of the strategy by multiple governments and other entities with flood responsibilities would reflect a continued commitment to regional flood risk reduction in the Lower Mainland.

Each participating entity that endorses the strategy in principle would play a key role in the work ahead after the strategy is finalized. This work would include implementing strategy recommendations where appropriate, developing a framework for prioritizing flood risk areas and an evaluation framework for flood risk reduction projects, and participating in inter-jurisdictional discussions to secure funding for short-, medium- and long- term flood risk reduction projects.

Strategy Content

The overall purpose of the LMFMS is to take a regional approach to reducing flood risks associated with Fraser River and coastal flooding in the Lower Mainland. As written in Draft 1, the strategy’s three overarching goals are to:

  1. Improve understanding of Lower Mainland flood risk and increase awareness
  2. Support investment and actions to reduce flood risk, avoid the creation of new risk, and build resilience of communities, ecosystems and critical infrastructure
  3. Strengthen flood risk governance in the Lower Mainland.

A vision statement and 17 objectives are outlined in section 4 of Draft 1.

Fraser River and coastal floods can have regional-scale impacts and are best addressed through collaborative and coordinated approaches to planning and mitigation supported by a regional strategy.

Even though communities can be seriously impacted by other types of flooding — such as from smaller rivers or creeks, groundwater seepage, overwhelmed drainage systems during heavy rain events, or landslide or debris flow floods — a region-wide approach would arguably have less benefit on the management of these types of flood risk.

In addition, the agreed-on mandate and funding for the LMFMS process was limited and not sufficient to address these other flood hazards.

Several organizations participating in the LMFMS were of the view that the strategy should not be prescriptive with regard to flood risk reduction projects for local communities.

Draft 1 recommends criteria for designing and evaluating risk reduction initiatives (section 5.2.2), but it is not within the capacity or authority of the LMFMS process to undertake locally specific analysis for each community. Similarly, Draft 1 proposes criteria for determining priority flood risk areas (section 5.3.3), but the actual prioritization is most appropriately the role of decision-makers. The Lower Mainland Flood Risk Assessment can serve as a tool to support regional prioritization, along with additional information.

The 68 recommendations in Draft 1 are being reviewed regarding relative urgency and feasibility of implementation in the short, medium and longer term. Several recommendations can be implemented by existing jurisdictions with relatively few additional resources. Other recommendations will require more thought, analysis, resources and perhaps legislative change. Governments and infrastructure organizations can continue to advance their own flood planning and risk reduction priorities in the meantime through available funding sources.

Although the strategy may not cover all organization-specific needs, interests, priorities and circumstances, it targets issues and opportunities where a regional approach can have the greatest impact, for mutual benefit. To facilitate implementation, partner and participating organizations may consider opportunities for alignment between the LMFMS in their flood planning and mitigation activities.

Strategy Implementation

Section 6.3 in Draft 1 proposes four immediate next steps to realize core elements of the strategy: establishing the regional flood entity and funding program and development of a regional prioritization framework and risk reduction initiative evaluation framework to support funding decisions.

Drafts 2 and 3 of the strategy will contain more direction on the timing and order of implementing recommendations. Additional immediate next steps and high-priority actions may be identified prior to strategy finalization. It is proposed that the detailed work on implementation would be done by a regional flood entity. Input on this topic is welcome at this time.

The following factors will likely be considered:

  • Priorities indicated by partner and participating organizations during the Draft 1 and Draft 2 review processes
  • Relative urgency – some recommendations are more urgent than others (e.g., those addressing frequent and significant flood consequences compared with those addressing longer term climate change)
  • Relative ease/effort and resource availability (including financial, human, information and legislative) – some recommendations can be implemented with few additional resources and no change in policy or legislation, while others will require additional technical analysis, further engagement with affected organizations, significant financial investment (including establishment of new funding sources) and/or legislative amendments
  • Required sequencing of related recommendations – some recommendations need to be implemented before others can (e.g., fill critical information gaps before establishing regional priorities).

A regional flood entity is recommended to implement and oversee implementation of the strategy, address current gaps and deliver needed support services at the regional scale. It is proposed that, with the exception of decisions about regional priorities and funding – where First Nations and local governments would have an enhanced role – existing flood management jurisdictions, roles, responsibilities and funding sources would be retained by existing organizations across the four orders of government.

It is proposed that the regional flood entity could be mandated to do any or all of following:

  1. Establish regional priorities for flood risk reduction across the region (by developing and using a transparent framework developed in collaboration with existing jurisdictions)
  2. Serve in an advisory or decision-making role with respect to funding decisions about projects, policies and programs for LMFMS implementation
  3. Deliver regional-scale support services, including:
    • Technical services (e.g., flood hazard modelling, floodplain mapping and flood risk assessment)
    • Communications and public education services (including monitoring and reporting on LMFMS implementation)
    • Inter-jurisdictional, multi-sectoral, collaborative flood planning to advance LMFMS implementation at different scales and across different sectors.

The proposed regional flood entity would ensure strong involvement of First Nations and local governments, along with provincial and federal representation, in regional-scale decisions about priorities and funding. Currently, First Nations and local governments apply for grants in the absence of a regional decision-making framework and the final decisions are made by provincial and/or federal agencies.

Establishment of a regional flood entity is proposed as a priority step following finalization of the strategy and the entity would be tasked to oversee strategy implementation. The timeline would depend on the structure, responsibilities and authority of the entity and whether legislative change is required. Work is being undertaken to explore mechanisms and the timeframe for establishing the regional flood entity. Interim mechanisms are also being explored so as to advance recommendations and flood risk reduction initiatives in the near term, and these will be addressed in Draft 2.

Input on possible approaches to implementation during this interim period is welcome.

The regional flood entity is expected to have representation from different orders of government. It is proposed that the entity be mandated to determine the regional priority areas for flood risk reduction and to have either a decision-making or an advisory role in the allocation of funding for work that implements the strategy. Comments are sought during the Draft 1 and Draft 2 reviews on the scope of the entity’s role.

It is proposed that, with the exception of decisions about regional priorities and funding — where First Nations and local governments would have an enhanced role — existing flood management jurisdictions, roles, responsibilities and funding sources would be retained by existing organizations across the four orders of government.

A start-up budget of $500 million is proposed over an initial 5-year period. This is estimated to be equivalent to all prior flood infrastructure investments across all of BC over the last 50 years.

This amount of funding would support substantial implementation of a majority of strategy recommendations and a number of risk reduction initiatives in priority areas; however, it would not be sufficient to address all of the flood risk reduction needs across the Lower Mainland region. This is particularly true for flood protection infrastructure upgrades, including for seismic and climate change resilience.

It is proposed that the program would be updated and extended on a 5-year rolling basis.

A longer-term timeline for strategy implementation is needed. Substantial progress could be achieved over an initial 10-year period if sufficient resources are invested. To address projected larger and more frequent flooding due to climate change, a longer time period and a more significant investment will be required.

It is envisioned that provincial and federal governments would share in the substantive costs of strategy implementation. Local and First Nations governments have limited capacity to share in these costs. It is anticipated that the commitment of the provincial and federal governments to invest will depend on achieving a broad base of support and endorsement of the strategy among First Nations and local governments and other organizations across the Lower Mainland.

The recommendation for a regional funding program in the final strategy will be the basis for a formal request on behalf of all entities that endorse the strategy.

Work is being undertaken now to clarify the mechanisms necessary to establish a dedicated funding program for implementation of the strategy. In the interim, existing, albeit limited, funding sources will be explored for near-term implementation of some lower-cost and most urgent recommendations.

As proposed, the regional flood entity would determine regional priority areas based on a framework that considers relative flood risk on a regional scale, as well as need and urgency (see the proposed criteria in section 5.3.3). These areas would be prioritized for financial support. Flood risk reduction projects would be evaluated by the entity based on the framework proposed in section 5.2.2. With regard to specific funding applications, the regional entity could play either a decision-making role or an advisory role to senior levels of government that provide the funding. It is envisioned that other provincial- and national-scale funding sources would continue to be available to support local flood projects. Input on this point is encouraged.