Survey crew readies equipment for a day on the river, gathering data for floodplain mapping. MIKE YOUDS PHOTO

EDITORIAL: Time to get serious about Port Alberni’s floodplain

Port Alberni is situated in a unique topographical area…

The Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District is embarking on the first serious mapping of the Somass River floodplain in 25 years. It’s about time.

In 2016 we advocated a change in thinking about building on Port Alberni’s floodplain, after homes along the Somass had to be evacuated for the second time in three years due to record flooding. A state of emergency for the Tseshaht First Nation during king tide and storm season in November has become the norm, not the exception.

As people focus more and more on tourism in the Alberni Valley, people’s attention turns to our waterfront and the possibilities we have for the little remaining non-industrial land on the Somass River. We need to be mindful of whether it’s a good idea to build there at all, and if we do, what is acceptable.

Port Alberni is situated in a unique topographical area, surrounded by mountains on three sides and with the Somass River under tidal influences from the Alberni Inlet, which reaches out to the west coast and Pacific Ocean. We’ve been hit with a massive tsunami in the past (1964) and the tsunami warning of just over a year ago is another reason we need to give the floodplain more attention.

It would be wasteful to ignore it.

Whether you believe in climate change or not, our community has been experiencing more severe flooding in recent years, and we’re not alone: there is a national effort afoot to develop improved floodplain mapping. The idea is to help communities adapt to extreme weather events.

Whatever the Somass River mapping results, we hope the regional district and the City of Port Alberni will take them seriously when looking at the future of our community. It’s time to be proactive, and not think about how we can mop up after the next water disaster.

— Alberni Valley News

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