In the late spring of 1948, in southwest British Columbia, the Fraser River breached its banks. There was massive flooding – accumulatively the greatest natural disaster in Canada until then. One-third of the Lower Mainland was submerged.
It would never be the same.
The trauma of the flood legitimated a new kind of government intervention. It was clear – at least to some public-spirited advocates: there had to be dikes built to control the river, and there had to be planning to control development.
In June, 1949 – just a year after the flood – the Lower Mainland Regional Planning Board was established. And from that early, ultimately modest, exercise came a vision for the region: “Cities in a sea of green.” It is still the vision that has informed every regional plan since, including the one that passed last week at the Metro Vancouver Board.
So some questions for a region much like ours: How will the Queensland floods affect the Brisbane region? What will be their response? A renewed commitment to dams and dikes – like the Wivenhoe Dam after the flood of 74? How will they assess their long-term predicament? Are decade-long droughts and apocalyptic floods the new climatic norm?
And if they are, what to do?