City will put away money to deal with future impacts of climate change

Hamilton city councillors will start storing away money to deal with the future impacts of climate change.
Calvin Huizinga, a city wastewater collection system inspector, checks a manhole on Bayside Avenue on the beach strip last year. Councillors will debate Wednesday setting up a reserve just to deal with the impacts of climate change. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Hamilton city councillors will start storing away money to deal with the future impacts of climate change.

City council's general issues committee voted Wednesday to set up a reserve account — so-called "rainy day" money to deal with future expenses — to adapt to extreme weather.

Staff will report back on how much money the city can store away every year, and where it will come from. Chad Collins, Ward 5 councillor, says it'll be used on proactive measures, such as fixing the escarpment or beefing up waterfront trails. It'll also be used on reactive ones, such as repairing damage from flooding and storm surges.

Residents depend on transportation, energy and water, "all of which are at risk" from the increasing number of extreme weather events, Collins says. 

"Each year, the city and its citizens are affected by climate related challenges, including flood, erosion, extreme heat, ice storms, higher lake levels."

It will fall to the city to pay for much of this, he says. So it should start preparing.

The city already has reserves to fix roads, stabilize taxes and other key functions. Councillors will debate approaching the federal and provincial governments for financial help, and to develop plans to adapt to climate change.

The city is already paying for the impact of extreme weather events. Last month, it declared an April ice storm an emergency so those with flooded basements would be eligible for compassionate grants of up to $1,000. 

The storm caused issues in Stoney Creek and Winona in particular, when Lake Ontario waves crashed over break walls and flooded lakeside homes.

It declared an emergency for the same reason last May. That's when rain pummelled the area from April 21 to May 6. That caused property and infrastructure damage in various parts of the city, including the beach strip in Collins's ward.

The city is also spending as much as $500,000 a year to deal with falling rocks from the escarpment, and $450,000 on preventative maintenance. City staff link that to climate change.

It's also spending thousands to repair the Waterfront Trail, which has been repeatedly damaged by storm surges from the lake. Collins says some of the reserve money could be spent making design improvements to prevent future damage.

Money for those grants comes from the city's storm sewer reserve.

Councillors unanimously supported the reserve Wednesday. Aidan Johnson, Ward 1 councillor, took it a step farther. He suggested Hamilton sue the oil and gas industry, although "that's a conversation for another day."

About the Author

Samantha Craggs

Reporter

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca