Home » Let’s Talk Flooding: Community Gathering on Flooding Summary

Let’s Talk Flooding: Community Gathering on Flooding Summary

by Taeyon

On February 15, 2024, some 45 residents of Fredericton South gathered at the Stepping Stone Seniors Centre to listen to a panel convened by MLA David Coon’s Constituency Office on the topic of flooding in Fredericton. Many came to hear what the city was doing to mitigate the flooding, and many came to ask questions and share their experiences.

The panel consisted of two experts from the City of Fredericton, Sean Lee, Engineer with the City who has a focus on incorporating climate change resliency into municipal infrastructure renewal; Jillian Huggins, Environmental Strategist and Program Manager with the City; and Dr. Shabnam Jabari, Professor at UNB’s Department of Geodesy and Geomatics Engineering, specializing in predictive mapping for flooding.

Sean Lee started with a detailed description of what the city is doing to mitigate flooding. He noted there are two types of flooding: river flooding and intense rainfall flooding. River flooding is more familiar to the city. Sean emphasized that we cannot stop river flooding, but can create more resilience and mitigation against the flooding. Intense rainfall flooding is newer and likely will become more frequent with climate change; he also noted it is harder to predict.

The city accepts that it cannot stop flooding, but its focus is on resilience and service continuance. The city now uses a climate lens on all its projects. It takes a long-term view as it upgrades infrastructure to adapt to a new climate reality that will see greater precipitation and flooding.

Jillian Hudgins explained that the city adopted an adaptation plan around climate risks in 2020, which included plans to upgrade infrastructure to prepare for future precipitation. It also looks to natural flood mitigation such as wetlands, plants and trees, to absorb precipitation and protect from erosion.

One of the challenges is building awareness and improving communications. They have an online tool to raise awareness and educate citizens around flooding. Specifically, it rates flood risk for individual properties: https://caportal.ca/cof/neighbourhood-flood-risk/map

Dr. Jabari described the flood mapping work she and her graduate students do at UNB. Using the latest technology, including AI, satellite imaging, 3D mapping, drones, etc., they have created maps that predict flooding to a 90% accuracy. These types of predictive maps are important to help residents, cities, governments and agencies properly and efficiently prepare for flood events. One of her students’ projects also involves crowd sourced data of flooding photos, which can be used to determine the accuracy of flood maps.

Following the presentations from the expert panel, audience members signed up to ask questions or make comments.  Attendees were interested in knowing whether the City and experts from UNB such as Dr. Jabari were working together, and how her work compared to the flooding predictions of the City.  She explained that her methods provide a finer level prediction in terms of which houses or buildings were at greatest risk based on their particular design and construction. 
As the intensity of climate change grows, it is clear that more work is needed to understand how best to predict and respond to flooding caused by intense rainfalls and the torrents of water that flow down the streets like Regent and Smythe and into the side streets. It is reassuring that the expertise exists in our universities which could be utilized by forward-looking cities like Fredericton to be prepared as best they can.