Canadian Underwriter

Toronto politicians may increase 2016 basement flooding protection spending

December 2, 2015   by Canadian Underwriter

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As Toronto city staff recommend $67.754 million in capital funding for basement flooding protection projects in 2016, City Council, which meets next week, is being urged to advance 2017 cashflow for those projects into 2016 if a “greater than planned” amount of work can be completed.

Toronto’s executive committee voted Tuesday to recommend that City Council request that staff “advance the 2017 cashflow for the Basement Flooding projects into 2016, should it become evident that greater than planned volume of work can be completed, and that the 2017 – 2025 budgeted cash flows be adjusted accordingly as part of the 2017 Budget process.”

Toronto City Council will consider a capital spending plan that includes $67.754 million in 2016 for basement flooding protection projects

The executive committee is chaired by Mayor John Tory and includes 12 of the city’s 44 councillors.

Full council is scheduled to meet Dec. 9.

At its meeting Tuesday, the executive committee considered Toronto Water’s $11.106-billion 2016-2025 Recommended Capital Budget and Plan. The executive committee recommends that full council approve the 2016 recommended capital budget for Toronto Water, with a total project cost of $738.789 million.

That budget includes $67.754 million for basement flooding protection projects, while the 2016-2025 capital plan includes $1.638 billion in spending on basement flooding protection.

The Basement Flooding Protection Program – then known as the Basement Flooding Protection Work Plan – was approved by City Council in 2006, according to a Toronto Water staff report on the 2016 proposed capital budget. In 2006, the plan was comprised of engineering studies in 31 areas “that experienced significant flooding during extreme storms in May 2000 and August 2005.”

On Aug. 19, 2005, a one-hour storm caused $590 million in insured losses, Property and Casualty Insurance Compensation Corp. reported earlier. As a result of that storm, the bridge carrying Finch Avenue bridge over Black Creek collapsed.

“New service level standards were adopted, requiring storm drainage systems to accommodate a 1 in 100 year return frequency storm event, up from the current 1 in 2 to 1 in 5 year return frequency storm,” according to the staff report. “Between 2006 and 2013, the number of study areas in the City was increased from 31 to 34 study areas in response to additional storm events and new occurrences of basement flooding.”

Then on July 8, 2013, 126 millimetres of rain fell at Toronto-Pearson International Airport, while the normal rainfall for the entire month of July is less than 75 mm. At the time, Environment Canada reported two separate storm cells hit the city in late afternoon. That storm ranked third (with more than $900 million in insured losses) on the list of the most expensive natural disasters in Canada.

In December of 2013, Toronto’s basement flooding protection program was expanded city-wide.

“By the end of 2015, $237 million will have been spent to upgrade over 130 kilometres of storm and sanitary sewers, build two surface storage ponds, and build one underground storm storage tank to meet the enhanced level of service requirements required under the Basement Flooding Protection Program,” Toronto Water stated. “A further $55 million in construction projects has been committed.”

As of the end of October, environmental assessment studies for 26 basement flooding study areas were complete, Toronto Water staff added.

“These EA studies investigate the causes of basement and surface flooding and recommend sewer system improvements to reduce the risk of future basement flooding during extreme storms,” according to the report. “Fifteen studies are ongoing and they will be completed in 2015, the 8 remaining areas are anticipated to be completed in 2017.”

In deciding whether to proceed with detailed design and construction of infrastructure upgrades, a “key criteria .. is the need for projects to cost less than $32,000 per benefitting property,” Toronto Water General Manager Lou Di Gironimo wrote in a document in October, titled 2016 Capital Budget Briefing Note Basement Flooding Protection Program – Program Status Update. That criteria was adopted by City Council in 2011.

“Projects that meet the $32,000 per benefitting property requirement, at the completion of preliminary design, are moved into detailed design and construction,” Di Gironimo wrote. “Projected to the end of 2015, approximately $237 million of infrastructure upgrades will have been constructed within the Basement Flooding Protection Program. This value of construction represents approximately 14% of the total value of the improvements that have been recommended by the EA studies so far.”

In its report on the recommended 2016 capital budget, Toronto Water noted that some of the projects recommended as a result of basement flooding environmental assessments cost more than $32,000 per benefitting property and therefore those projects “are not proceeding to engineering design and construction.”

In early 2013, City Council received a paper – titled Toronto’s Future Weather and Climate Driver Study: Outcomes Report – commissioned by the City of Toronto environment office. The paper – prepared by SENES Consultants Ltd. – included a chart comparing actual weather in 2000-09 to the weather patterns projected from 2040 through 2049. For example, the maximum amount of rain in one day, in 2000-09, was 66 mm, but that amount is projected to increase to 166 mm by 2040-49.