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Park board approves 'like-for-like' Jericho Pier repair, despite climate concerns

The Vancouver Park Board has ordered a "like-for-like" repair of the Jericho Pier, rejecting a recommendation from staff to demolish the storm-damaged structure.

ABC commissioners voted to rebuild the pier during Monday night's board meeting, approving a motion from Angela Haer to use donations, insurance reimbursement and other funding sources for the project, which is estimated to cost $1.7 million.

Any outstanding balance will be covered by the board's capital plan.

The 80-year-old Jericho Pier – which has been closed since 2021 – has been repaired several times over the years after being battered by storms, and staff recommended against a like-for-like repair that could leave the structure at risk of similar damage on a routine basis.

"The pier deck will remain below the extreme high tide elevation, and it will remain susceptible to yearly coastal storm damage requiring future closures and repairs," reads a Sept. 5 staff report. "This vulnerability is forecast to increase in light of climate change effects."

Only Tom Digby, the lone Green Party commissioner on the ABC-dominated park board, opposed Haer's motion, calling the proposal "catastrophically bad."

"What it says is that we don't believe that climate change is hitting our shoreline all along," Digby said during Monday's meeting.

"There was no mention of climate denial among this group," commissioner Brennan Bastyovanszky fired back. "So we don't appreciate … when you're reading into what the other commissioners have implied."

Chair Laura Christensen acknowledged the Jericho Pier is likely to sustain more storm damage, but said commissioners opted to keep it "on life support" pending a better long-term solution.

A pier renewal plan approved by the previous park board in 2017 would have seen the wooden structure rebuilt with steel and concrete, 2.5 metres taller to account for rising sea levels.

It would also have added wheelchair accessibility and amenities such as public washrooms.

That project was initially estimated at $16 million, though the latest staff report cautioned the proposal could now reach $25 million due to "inflation, cost escalations, contingencies, and ancillary costs."

While a like-for-like rebuild would require much less up-front funding, staff estimated the ongoing cost of maintenance and repair work at up to $2.35 million annually.

"As a result, staff do not see this as a responsible financial decision," the report reads.

The Jericho Pier was initially closed in November 2021 due to what the board described as "moderate" storm damage. Two months later, a storm surge and king tide flooded and further battered the pier, forcing an indefinite closure.

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Lisa Steacy Top Stories

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