One expert interviewed pointed out that in order to evaluate permit applications, staff are provided a relatively rigid series of tables and forms to use. Unfortunately, flood control infrastructure projects are often complex, each site unique to the local ecological and hydrological characteristics.
Rarely do they fit neatly into the boxes of mandatory evaluation forms, leading to an extended back-and-forth between applicants and permitting agencies.
Removing environmental protection legislation is not the solution. The experts we spoke to suggested various ways to streamline the process, including:
- A “one-stop shop” system where applicants could submit project information to be shared with all relevant agencies and levels of government. It avoids the duplication of information required for different permits and improves communication between agencies that often have comments or questions for each other concerning a project.
- Allow staff more autonomy to use their professional and technical knowledge to evaluate permit applications beyond the rigid guidelines and forms that are not adaptable to the range of projects being proposed.
Existing infrastructure is aging and will need to be retrofitted, replaced or removed. At the same time, as efforts to reverse the negative consequences of previous urban development continue, more projects will need to go through the permitting process.
Communities and permitting agencies must be able to deal with the influx of projects. Everyone involved needs to be part of discussions to address the shortcomings of the current system.
Climate change is increasing flood risk in the Lower Fraser. The suggestions that came from these workshops and interviews can contribute to discussions that need to happen now so communities of the Lower Fraser are empowered to mitigate flood risks, especially those that support First Nations priorities, sustainable economies, and benefit ecosystems.