Sea change

The Campbell administration expects sea levels will increase one metre by 2100 thanks to climate change. So it's hiring a consultant to measure how vulnerable British Columbia is to that increase, establishing a "sea level rise and extreme water level sensitivity index" for the province's coastline. In a bid document posted yesterday on the government's procurement Website, the government acknowledged such a rise could pose a "risk to coastal infrastructure" and result in the "potential loss of coastal habitats where natural migration may be impeded." So it's spending up to $25,000 to identify those risk areas. The following is a complete copy of the relevant portion of that request for proposal.

1. Summary of the Requirement

The purpose of this RFP is to invite proposals from qualified consultants to develop and test a sea level rise and extreme water level sensitivity index for the coast of British Columbia. The index will be used to identify and characterise coast lines according to their sensitivity to the projected impacts of sea level rise including flooding, storm surge and erosion. For example, the index will identify:

* Shorelines with built structures and developed land vulnerable to damage due to extreme water levels both now and by 2100; and
* High value intertidal and coastal wetland habitats at risk of being "squeezed out" by rising extreme water levels projected to 2100 because of adjacent existing and potential future shoreline development or infrastructure.

The index will provide a high-level classification system that will be used to identify specific areas of concern that can be targeted for further analysis and adaptation actions.

2. Additional Definitions

In addition to the Request for Proposals Definitions set out in paragraph 1 of Section A, throughout this Request for Proposals, the following definitions will apply:

"BC Sea Level Report 2008" means the report, "An Examination of the Factors Affecting Relative and Absolute Sea Level in Coastal British Columbia" by R. Thomson, B. Bornhold, and S. Mazzotti, 2008, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Institute of Ocean Sciences, Sidney, BC, Canadian Technical Report of Hydrography and Ocean Sciences 260, 2008. A copy of the document can be downloaded from:

3. Ministry Situation/Overview

3.1 Ministry Responsibility

The Ministry of Environment, through the Climate Action Secretariat's Adaptation Section is responsible for coordinating the BC Government's overall approach to adapting to climate change. The Adaptation Section works with academic institutions, government agencies, local governments, professional organizations and others to develop science-based decision-support tools and provide advice for climate change adaptation planning and decision-making. In carrying out this work, the Ministry has engaged in a number of activities to examine the implications of sea level rise for British Columbia and develop tools to support adaptation.

3.2 Background

In December 2008, the Ministry and Fisheries and Oceans Canada published the BC Sea Level Report showing what factors affect sea levels along the coast of BC and providing projections of sea level rise for locations along the coast for the year 2100. Ministry staff have discussed the results of this report with agencies across government and with local government managers and professionals to determine the implication for various resource and land management functions and to determine what tools are needed to take sea level rise into account in planning and management processes. One of the tools identified through these consultations is a classification system of coastal sensitivity to sea level rise and extreme water levels. The classification system is required as part of a larger sea level rise vulnerability assessment. The assessment will inform business, provincial government policy and local government decisions about coastal development and guide investment of resources for further analysis of site-specific sea level rise impacts.

Climate change is expected to result in sea level rise of approximately 1m by the year 2100. The amount of sea level rise that will occur at any location along the BC coast will depend on global sea level rise and local factors such as vertical land movement (including subsidence, tectonic uplift and post-glacial rebound), water temperature, salinity, atmospheric effects and climate variability such as the El Nino/Southern Oscillation. Several areas of coastal BC are already known to be vulnerable to the impacts of high ocean water levels and coastal storms. Impacts of sea level rise for the BC coast will include increased frequency of coastal flooding and erosion. This will result in increased risk to coastal infrastructure and potential loss of coastal habitats where natural migration may be impeded by land development (coastal squeeze). Vulnerability of specific infrastructure and habitat values also varies.

The Ministry is also in the process of updating sea dike design and construction guidelines and coastal development guidelines based on sea level rise projections. A sea level rise/extreme water level sensitivity index will support these initiatives and provide practical information for coastal resource managers and local governments upon which to base management and development decisions.

In formulating a response to sea level rise, the Ministry is considering the following objectives:

* To reduce or prevent injury, human trauma and loss of life, and to minimize property damage from flooding events (as stated in the Ministry's Flood Hazard Management program).
* To protect the ability of coastal ecosystems to naturally respond to sea level rise.
* Where possible, to prevent loss of ecosystems due to "coastal squeeze".
* To guide investment of resources for more detailed analysis of local sea level rise impacts, such as digital elevation mapping, flood plain designations, habitat assessment and land use planning.
* To inform local government land use decisions.
* To inform application of the coastal development guidelines currently under development.
* To assess provincial policies on coastal land use, emergency response and crown land tenure.
* To improve public awareness of the implications of and responses to sea level rise.

3.3 Project Scope/Budget

The project consists of development and testing of a sea level rise and extreme water level sensitivity index that can be applied to coastal BC using standard geographic information systems and tools. The index should use existing datasets, such as Shore Zone or others that provide extensive coverage of the BC coast and are widely accessible. Deliverables include:

* A coastal sea level rise/extreme water level sensitivity index for British Columbia;
* A pilot study applying the index and related analysis methodology to one or more representative coastal regions; and
* A detailed project report.

The maximum project budget is $25,000. The terms of the contract will be from the date of award in late January/early February 2010 to March 31, 2010.

4. Requirements

4.1 A coastal sea level rise/extreme water level sensitivity index for British Columbia

This deliverable involves creation of a sea level rise/extreme water level sensitivity index that can be applied to coastal BC, with specific emphasis on developed shorelines or shorelines with development potential. The index should be based on shoreline and other data that are widely available through GeoBC (e.g., Shore Zone, TRIM, etc.) or other public data warehouses and the BC Sea Level Rise Report. Additional sea level rise projections for all sites with tide gauges are also available from the Ministry. Although there are numerous other sources for sea level rise projections, these sources are to be used for this project. Application of the methodology should not require additional data collection.

The index should provide a ranking or classification of sensitivity to current and future extreme water level events and should take into account the following:

* Factors that contribute to coastal erosion
* Factors that contribute to coastal flooding
* Exposure of coastal infrastructure or human settlements to sea level rise impacts
* Existence of coastal habitats sensitive to changes in mean sea level
* Co-existence of coastal habitats sensitive to changes in sea level and coastal infrastructure that could prevent natural migration of habitats in response to sea level rise
* The value of shoreline developments and coastal habitats (e.g., endangered vs. non-endangered species/habitats; critical vs. non-critical infrastructure)

The index should be able to answer or provide significant insight to the following questions important to land and resource management planning and decision-making:

* Where on BC's coast are built structures and human settlements vulnerable to sea level rise impacts?
* Where on BC's coast are coastal habitats at risk of being "squeezed out" by shoreline development or infrastructure?
* Where on BC's coast do coastal habitats have the potential to migrate in response to sea level rise?

Consideration of sea level rise after 2100 is beyond the scope of this project. However, it would be desirable for the index to be capable of incorporating sea level rise projections for various time periods in the 21st century (e.g., 2050s, 2070s, etc.).

This requirement includes provision of any code, spatial data layers, databases, spreadsheets, models or computer programs and documentation required to apply the index to coastal BC.

4.2 A pilot study applying the index and related analysis methodology to one or more representative coastal regions

The pilot study or studies should demonstrate the effectiveness of the index in:

* Accurately classifying the coastline in the range of defined categories;
* Answering or providing insight to the three questions stated in section 4.1 that are relevant to local land and resource management decision making; and
* Handling the variability of BC's coastline.

The pilot study report, which can be included in the project final report (see requirement 4.3), should include:

* A description of how the index was applied,
* A description of any adjustments that were required to apply the index,
* Validation of the index for accuracy in representing sensitivity of various shoreline types/classes to sea level rise/extreme water levels,
* A discussion of the results,
* Complete interpretation of the index as applied in the pilot study area(s), and
* GIS maps (including maps, spatial data layers and shapefiles in electronic form) of coastal sensitivity in the pilot areas

4.3 A detailed project report

The report should describe the development of the sensitivity index and the methodology for its application and interpretation for coastal British Columbia. The information provided should be of sufficient detail to allow the development and application of the index to be repeated by others, such as government staff or other consultants, with the appropriate skills and knowledge. Specific requirements of the report include:

* A brief review of other approaches to coastal sensitivity mapping used in North America (e.g., New Brunswick, Puget Sound, California, etc.)
* Clear and concise description and justification of the data, assumptions and methodology used to develop the sea level rise/extreme water level index for British Columbia
* Description of data specifications and preparation procedures for application of the index
* List of any software or analytical tools needed to complete application of the index and description of how they are used and where they can be obtained
* Full documentation of the index and its parameters
* Discussion of the limitations of the index and recommendations for future data collection and/or research to improve the index and its applicability to BC.
* Complete instructions or guidelines for validation and interpretation of the index when it is applied to the BC coast
* Pilot study report as described in section 4.2

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