Province, Ottawa spending $114m to reinforce Bay of Fundy dikes against rising seas

Article Image
St. Margarets MP and federal minister of rural economic development Bernadette Jordan talks to the media. Image - Ian Fairclough

Posted April 22, 2019

The federal and provincial governments have announced $114 million in funding to strengthen and improve 64 km of dikes in the province to protect against rising sea levels and coastal flooding caused by climate change.

The work will take place in Kings, Hants, Annapolis, Cumberland and Colchester counties, providing flood protection for tens of thousands of people and businesses, wineries, historic sites, Indigenous communities and more than 20,000 hectares of farmland facing a one-metre rise in ocean levels by the end of the century.

“Climate change is having a dramatic impact on our Canadian communities,” South Shore-St. Margarets MP and Rural Economic Development Minister Bernadette Jordan said Wednesday morning at the announcement in Grand Pre.

“Floods, wildfires and winter storms are all getting worse and more frequent,” Jordan told people gathered for the announcement. “The effects of these extreme weather events don’t go away overnight. It takes time to rebuild, and repairing the damage can take a major toll.”

She said adapting to the impacts of climate change and being prepared is critical for the well-being of communities along the coasts and dikeland of the province.

The Bay of Fundy dikeland system stretches from Yarmouth to Cumberland counties.

Jordan said the coastal tidal environment is powerful, and rising sea levels and coastal flooding have the potential to cause “catastrophic consequences.”

In 2012, flood waters breached a dike in Truro, causing millions of dollars in damage.

“Coastal flooding not only poses a threat to valuable farmland, homes and businesses, but it can impact access to essential services like power and clean drinking water, disrupt sewage treatment systems, and interrupt safe transportation routes.”

The work is split into two projects: one includes work on 60 km of dikes and five aboiteaux throughout the five counties to protect 60 communities, while the other involves four aboiteaux and four kilometres of dikes to protect Windsor, Falmouth and the surrounding area. That project is also tied into the twinning of Highway 101 across the Avon River in Windsor.

The money is the first to be designated in Nova Scotia from the disaster mitigation and adaptation fund.

Nova Scotia Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Lloyd Hines said the funding is a key component of completing the twinning of Highway 101 through Windsor.

“The aboiteau and causeway form an essential component of the surrounding dikeland system,” Hines said. “That system provides critical flood protection for agricultural lands and communities.”

But it wasn’t designed to handle the rising sea levels that are coming with climate change, he said, and the solution allows twinning along with flood protection and improved fish passage.

He said the work in all counties will protect the Grand Pre and Annapolis Royal national heritage sites, and municipal and provincial infrastructure.

Jordan said after the event that the federal government is working with Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to do a study on the Chignecto Isthmus — with its dikeland and marshland between Amherst and Sackville, New Brunswick — and what can be done there.

“We recognize this is a huge issue for Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, so we’re looking at ways that we can go forward with helping to get that project underway.”

Hines said the project on the 101 through Windsor should be done by 2022.

While the discussions between the two levels of government had been going on for some time, Hines said that had nothing to do with the work on an aboiteau in Hantsport that washed out last year, but only recently saw work approved and started.

“It’s totally unrelated,” he said. “The Hantsport one was more of a legal issue (with the Windsor-Hantsport railway). The fly in the ointment was the ownership issue.”

Jean Leung of North Grand Pre was at the announcement. She said she can see the Minas Basin, off the Bay of Fundy, from all the windows of her house, with farmland in between.

“Climate change is one of the most important considerations we have right now in terms of protecting the future agricultural sustainability of this area,” she said.

These days when the tide is high it is only a foot from the top of the dikes in the area, she said.

“You can imagine a full moon with the high tide and a big wind storm: it wouldn't take much to go over that foot,” she said.

She said work has been ongoing through the winter to try to shore up soft spots in the dikes.

“It’s inevitable that there’s going to be loss of farmland if nothing’s done,” she said.