A total replacement for the Stanley Park Seawall in Vancouver could cost more than $250 million after record king tides and storms have battered the iconic structure over the past two years.
During a recent Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation meeting, staff discussed the extent of damage inflicted on the seawall and ocean front infrastructure by a “perfect storm.”
On Jan. 7, 2022, “a (king) tide with sustained winds combined with a significant amount of debris in the water battered the seawall and shorelines,” said parks manager Ian Stewart during the meeting.
The storm lined up with a king tide, an abnormally high tide that occurs during the winter months. Stewart said the highest king tide ever recorded occurred just over two weeks ago at the end of December 2022.
“Let that sink in for a moment,” he said, “This event wasn’t the first nor will it be the last.”
Structural engineer Andrew Seeton said damage was inflicted across a wide range of marine infrastructure from Prospect Point to Spanish Banks.
The most severe damage occurred along the seawall between Siwash rock and Third Beach, at Kitsilano Beach and at Spanish Banks West.
Jericho Pier and Kitsilano Pool also suffered damage.
Repairs are well underway for most of the damaged areas.
“The Stanley Park seawall was one of our most heavily damaged assets and in light of the very high demand for access we placed our initial priority on addressing this area,” said Seeton.
“The repair work between Third beach and Prospect Point included installing concrete block wall sections at areas where the seawall had collapsed. The stone walls were subsequently rebuilt along with reinforced concrete strengthening elements and new capstones.”
Kate McIntyre, senior engineer with Vancouver Parks, said approximately $1.1 million had been spent on repairs so far with an expected $1.2 million cost to come. Those figures do not include costs to repair Jericho Pier and Kits Pool.
McIntyre said pool repairs have so far cost $250,000.
Jericho Pier repairs are not yet underway. The pier is currently closed due to the significant damage it suffered. Seeton said Jericho was battered by large volumes of logs which also piled onto the pier.
An assessment is currently being conducted with repair recommendations expected to be brought forth in the coming months.
“A total of $3.5 million is allocated for all proactive and reactive repair works for park board sections of seawall and shoreline,” in the 2023-2026 capital budget, said McIntyre.
She said such funding would be sufficient to cover rehabilitation of the seawall in some sections.
“However, then there would be no funds left to cover repair costs if another storm event similar to Jan. 7, 2022” were to happen, said McIntyre.
And such funding pales in comparison to the costs associated with a total replacement of the seawall or shoreline around Stanley Park.
“The estimated replacement cost of beach riprap or armored shoreline and seawall ― that is, to rebuild as is without any resiliency improvements ― is estimated to be approximately $1,000 per metre for beach and approximately $17,000 per metre for seawall,” she said.
Including all associated costs, a total replacement of the eight-kilometre seawall around Stanley Park could reach $250 to $300 million before new resiliency measures are even brought into the equation.
Resiliency upgrades could be in the future for the seawall with McIntyre predicting regular sea levels in 2050 could be equivalent to today’s king tides due to rising ocean levels caused by climate change.
Stewart said the parks board has secured funding to undertake a climate adaptation plan for the city’s shoreline and the process is just getting started.
McIntyre noted there are some extreme weather factors that can be readily predicted but others are difficult to anticipate such as strong wind and waves.
“A challenge that local municipalities are facing is that at present there is no single agency that issues a combined storm surge and high wind and wave warning,” she said.
Staff noted they would be returning to the board in the coming months with infrastructure recommendations for the seawall and shoreline.
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