UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

role of perception in flood plain management Shanks , Gordon Ross


The flood plain of the Fraser River in the Lower Fraser Valley is rapidly becoming urbanized, this being most evident in the municipality of Richmond located on Lulu Island. A problem arises due to the fact that the Fraser River is subject to frequent floods of varying magnitudes. To prevent flood damages a system of dykes has been constructed around Lulu Island. Evidence indicates, however, that even with the dykes there still exists a substantial residual flood hazard. A major flood in Richmond would constitute a financial disaster. Consequently, if development is to occur on the flood plain, additional adjustments to the flood hazard are necessary. The planning process in Richmond has apparently failed to recognize this necessity. To understand the observed breakdown in the planning process the literature suggests that the problem may be fruitfully studied by examining the decision-making process with respect to perception of the flood hazard and alternative adjustments to the hazard. The hypothesis proposed is that the planning officials are aware of the alternate adjustments but policies to implement these measures are not undertaken because of lack of support from the general public who do not perceive the flood problem or ways to cope with it. The methodology used to study the problem involves three steps. The first is the definition and description of flood plain management policy at all government levels operating in British Columbia. The second step is to identify the public decision-making process with respect to flood plain management. Interviews with key officials in this process are reported upon according to their perceptions of the flood hazard and adjustments to the flood hazard. The third step is to sample perceptions of flood plain land-users by means of a questionnaire to determine their perceptions of the hazard and adjustments. The study shows that the officials are aware of the hazard but do not adequately perceive non-structural adjustments. The general public is poorly informed and thus shows little concern about the subject. The results indicate that perception of the hazard is a major factor in the adjustment adoption process. It appears that a change in decision-makers' perceptions will be necessary to bring about a change in the planning practise with respect to flood plain management.

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