Beach with coastal marshes and blue sky

Surrey's coast is home to unique habitats that are full of life. Here you can find migratory birds, salmon and many other species.

Coastal Marshes in Surrey

On Surrey's coast you can find unique habitats including mud flats, eelgrass beds, and salt marshes, which are internationally recognized as important wildlife areas. Birds use Mud Bay as a rest stop on their migration route, and young salmon spend their time here before heading out to the deeper ocean waters.

Coastal habitats are valuable not only to wildlife but also to people. Many of us go there to recreate and observe nature, and our communities enjoy the services that coastal habitats, especially marshes, provide.

The services that coastal marshes provide include water quality improvement, reduction of coastal erosion and decreasing the size of waves. Together, these services help protect us from coastal flooding. However, with rising sea levels, the coastal marshes that we depend on are at risk of disappearing.

In the past, if sea levels rose, coastal marshes were able to move further inland. But now they are at risk of coastal squeeze – the structures that humans have built to keep the water from flooding the land are also preventing salt marshes from migrating to higher grounds. This project will test a method for helping these coastal marshes remain healthy.

Project Description

We are exploring a new method to increase Surrey's ability to manage coastal flooding. This project is an example of a nature-based solution or green infrastructure. This means that we will learn from and mimic natural processes to develop solutions. To create a method that works in harmony with existing natural processes, we are putting a lot of focus on researching the local conditions.

Such nature-based solutions will help protect us from flooding, while at the same time ensure that the local environment continues to thrive.

This project is part of the first phase of implementation of the Coastal Flood Adaptation Strategy (CFAS). CFAS guides our work in ensuring our community is resilient, safe, healthy and prepared for coastal flooding and sea level rise. To achieve that, CFAS outlines 46 strategic actions; this project is one of them.

Watch a video to learn more about the project.

A Living Dyke Pilot

As part of the project, we plan to apply the living dyke concept at two locations. The first pilot location will be created in front of the Boundary Bay Dyke in Delta, and the second pilot location will be on the shore immediately west of Mud Bay Park in Surrey.

The living dyke concept is based on the idea of establishing a gentle, raised slope to help natural marshes keep up with sea level rise. To do so, we will be adding sediment and planting native marsh species on the foreshore. The aim is to gradually increase the elevation of the marshes over time.

This project is innovative and experimental. It will entail piloting, testing, evaluating and refining different possible approaches. We will be building it in phases and use each phase as a learning opportunity to improve the approach.

This project will require collaboration with partners and stakeholders, especially the Boundary Bay Living Dike Roundtable. We will be working closely with the City of Delta to build the first pilot location of the living dyke concept.

Boundary Bay Living Dike Roundtable

The living dyke concept was developed in partnership with the Boundary Bay Living Dike Roundtable.

The Roundtable consists of representatives from Indigenous governments and rightsholders, environmental regulators, coastal engineering experts and researchers. It is chaired by staff from West Coast Environmental Law and the First Nations Emergency Planning Secretariat.

We will continue to work closely with the Roundtable throughout the duration of this project. We will draw on the expertise of its Technical Working Group to develop an approach that meets our goals of flood protection and habitat enhancement.

What Will This Project Achieve?

Foreshore enhancements will:

  • Provide a nature-based defence for coastal flooding;
  • Build natural habitat and enhance environmental processes and ecosystem functions;
  • Mitigate the impacts of sea level rise on marsh habitat; and
  • Increase our understanding of viable coastal marsh adaptation approaches and their replicability.

Project Timing

The living dyke site in Surrey is considered a reviewable project under the BC Environmental Assessment Act. To fulfill the requirements, the City will begin collecting baseline environmental data and consulting with the community, stakeholders and Indigenous nations in fall 2020.

The anticipated timing of the project is:

  • Fall 2020 to fall 2021 – Planning, design, environmental assessment
  • Summer 2021 to fall 2021 – Community engagement
  • 2022 – Work begins at the Delta living dyke pilot site
  • 2023 to 2027 – Work takes place on Surrey living dyke site 

Public Meeting

We will be doing public engagement in summer 2021 to provide further information on the project and gather feedback. Details will be posted here when available.



For more information about this project, please contact



This project is funded in part by the Government of Canada through the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund.

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