A $300,000 cash infusion has flowed into the West Coast’s emergency preparedness coffers to help Tofino and Ucluelet stay safe if and when a tsunami strikes.
Both towns have received $150,000 each from the Union of B.C. Municipalities’ Community Emergency Preparedness Fund.
Tofino’s emergency program coordinator Keith Orchiston told the Westerly News that the district has been benefitting from the fund since it was launched by the UBCM in 2017, with previous years’ funding going towards flood mapping and risk assessment projects.
“It was great news to hear we were successful in our application,” he said. “Especially for small communities like ours, it makes such a huge impact and allows us to do things that we’ve been thinking about for a long time but haven’t had the funds or other resources to do.”
This year’s funding will go towards the creation of a tsunami risk mitigation plan.
“Now that we have all of this information, we know what the hazard is and who’s at risk, what are we going to do about it? That’s what this plan is all about. It’s about developing a comprehensive and effective program for managing the tsunami risk to Tofino,” Orchiston said.
“There’s constantly new information and data out there and we’re actually starting to become data-rich with all the assessments that we’ve done over the past couple of years. So, this is putting that information to good use now so that we can refine our evacuation routes and the strategies we use to mitigate tsunami risks to reduce the impacts to our community.”
He said increasing public awareness is the most effective tsunami mitigation strategy and noted the district ran a survey online to gauge the preparedness of its residents.
“What we’re seeing from the preliminary survey results is that people are aware of the risk and quite knowledgeable about it,” he said.
Ucluelet’s $150,000 will go towards a flood mapping, risk assessment and mitigation project, according to the town’s Chief Administrative Officer Mark Boysen.
“The District of Ucluelet, being surrounded on three sides by the Pacific Ocean and its proximity to the Cascadia subduction zone, is a community that is acutely affected by the incremental and sudden changes to ocean conditions like storm surges, king tides, storm waves, climate change, sea level rise, and coastal erosion,” Boysen told the Westerly News via email.
He said the purpose of the project “is to engage a qualified professional engineering consultant experienced in coastal engineering to develop a flood risk assessment, flood plain mapping, establish a flood construction level, identify sea level rise planning areas, and identify flood hazards for the development of future land use policy.”
The UBCM’s Community Emergency Preparedness Fund dished out $3 million to 22 local and regional governments this year, according to Mid Island-Pacific Rim MLA Scott Fraser who was happy to see both Tofino and Ucluelet on the list.
“Everybody wants to feel safe in their community and that is especially true on the coast,” Fraser said through a media release. “This funding will go a long way in ensuring Tofino and Ucluelet have the resources they need to plan ahead and be better prepared for natural disasters.”