The City of St. Catharines continues to be proactive when it comes to an ongoing issue all communities are facing – climate change.
The City’s first Climate Adaptation Plan (CAP) was established in 2021 to address how the organization can better prepare for the impacts of climate change. In total, 28 actions were identified that will help the City adapt to climate change through either an initiative or project. The 2023 Progress Report, presented to Council on Sept. 25, provided an overview of each adaptation action status. The status of each action was categorized as either in progress, complete, future or ongoing.
One of the 28 actions that has been completed was to ensure amenities at beaches / waterfront parks are above revised high lake levels, as well as future design features to be resilient to higher lake levels. The City was able to secure federal funding through the National Disaster Mitigation Program to complete the St. Catharines Lake Ontario Shoreline Flooding and Hazard Mapping Project. The project evaluated the risks imposed by varying water levels on City owned sections of the St. Catharines shoreline. Future park installments can also now be evaluated against the flood mapping.
Another action item checked off the list was to establish a green reserve fund. Some of that funding has been utilized for LED lighting upgrades. Last year, $35,000 was used to replace tennis court lighting in Berkley Park. As well, the City has been successful in various funding opportunities, from other levels of government and non-government grants, to help support climate change efforts.
Many of the CAP actions are currently in progress or ongoing, including:
· Continuing to implement the Urban Forestry Management Plan and achieve Urban Canopy Target: The City’s target is to plant over 3,000 trees by 2024, and at least 1,000 new trees per year over the next eight years. The Green Our Streets program is also assisting in those efforts, as close to 1,000 trees are planted annually on boulevards and in parks. As well, staff are looking into the development of an Invasive Species Management plan, given the rising issue of Oak Wilt, Spotted Lantern, and past effects of Emerald Ash Borer on the urban tree canopy.
· Increase homeowner awareness of storm water best management practices and flooding protection: A seasonal flood prevention checklist was developed to increase homeowner awareness about basement flooding. An informational video was also produced on how to install and maintain a rain barrel.
· Establish a “Green” interdepartmental team: Staff have been identified as the core team and terms of reference have been established. The team’s mandate will be to collectively collaborate, communicate and integrate climate change and environmental best management practices within corporate decision making to increase municipal resiliency, environmental sustainability and climate literacy.
The CAP will be reviewed annually with a similar progress report provided to Council, as well as a formal review and update in four years.
Investments made today in climate change planning help reduce reactive measures while improving community health and safety, reduce future financial burdens because of climate change, and can improve the health of the local environment now and for generations to come. A healthy environment supports a healthy community.