Case Study

Tree Canopy and Waterfront Shoreline Project

Sector: Coastal Resilience & Climate Adaptation
Highlights: Coastal resilience, Ecological uplift, Carbon sequestration
Project owner: The City of Toronto
Project start/completion: ​2019​ – ongoing
Location: ​Toronto, Canada ​
Community impacted: Urban
Hazards mitigated: ​Coastal erosion, Flooding, Storms ​
Number of vulnerable people made more resilient: ​19,355​
Case study provided by:  The City of Toronto and Toronto Region Conservation Authority

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The Toronto Tree Canopy and Waterfront Shoreline Project proactively address floods by repairing, remediating and enhancing the resilience of Toronto’s waterfront shoreline structures and tree canopy. The enhanced waterfront will protect the natural shoreline from erosion and contribute to the resilience of 19,335 flood-exposed people across an area of 9km.

About the Project

In recent years, the increased intensity and severity of extreme weather has caused significant erosion and damage to shoreline protection infrastructure along Toronto’s waterfront and the tree canopy. In particular, record-high Lake Ontario water levels in 2017 and 2019, and a wind and ice storm event in April 2018, caused significant erosion and damage. This led the City of Toronto to propose the Tree Canopy and Waterfront Shoreline Project.

Financed with support from the Canadian Federal Government’s Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund, the project includes repairs and enhancements to shoreline control infrastructure, waterfront parks, beaches, embankments, trails and pathways, and an expansion of the City’s tree planting programme to plant approximately 34,000 trees. Waterfront Toronto is aiming to cover 30-35% of the revitalisation area with trees, contributing to the city’s plan to increase Toronto’s tree canopy to 30-40% over the next 50 years. The project recognises the role of nature-based solutions, such as tree planting, in providing essential stormwater management services that can proactively mitigate the risk of floods by reducing peak flows. This will prevent further land loss along the waterfront, strengthen the Toronto shoreline’s resilience and reduce risks from future extreme weather events.

The work through these projects will enhance and protect the Toronto shoreline through construction of erosion control systems supported by native plantings to protect against wave action. The focus on added resiliency to mitigate increased predicted lake levels has resulted in shoreline erosion structures being increased by an average of 1.1 metres in elevation.

Intended Outcomes

Social

The primary benefit of this project to the local population will be their increased resilience in the event of a flood or storm event, as the project will safeguard their shorelines and consequently protect the local community. The enhanced waterfront will contribute to the resilience of 19,335 flood-exposed people across an area of 9km². This project has the additional benefit of beautifying the shoreline and creating communal parks and green spaces for the local population to enjoy.

Environmental

The resilience of natural systems has been enhanced through planting native trees and other vegetation to fortify the natural shoreline, protecting it from erosion and strengthening its role in protecting the community from storm surge and flooding. Potential environmental impacts, such as soil erosion, are also minimised, and asset lifespan is maximised during construction using proven best management practices. Evaluation of potential environmental risks will be assessed on a sub-project basis to account for the unique elements at each site.

Economic

Economic benefits will also be achieved, with expected savings of $6 for every $1 invested in long-term savings on recovery and replacement costs.

How has carbon mitigation been integrated?

The sustainability of the project is also ensured via the use of two core documents in its development and delivery: The Waterfront Toronto Resilience and Innovation Framework for Sustainability and the Green Building Requirements. The tree-planting element of this initiative also has additional carbon sequestration effects.


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