Shrink­ing is­land

Ris­ing sea lev­els are swal­low­ing up Len­nox Is­land

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - THE PROVINCE -

David Ha­ley es­ti­mates Len­nox Is­land was com­prised of about 1,300 acres the first time he vis­ited the First Na­tion com­mu­nity back in 1973.

Back then, he was one of the first peo­ple to drive across the com­mu­nity’s brand new cause­way, its first per­ma­nent link to main­land Prince Ed­ward Is­land.

And like the First Na­tion’s land­mass, now down to about 1,100 acres, that per­ma­nent link is be­ing threat­ened by the grad­ual in­creases in sea level and the po­ten­tial of ever-wors­en­ing storm surges. A storm surge in 2010 stopped just short of wip­ing out that link. Ex­ten­sive re­pairs had to be car­ried out along the P.E.I. ap­proach to the bridge.

Ha­ley said the cause­way on each side of the bridge will need to be re­in­forced be­fore an­other storm surge causes even more dam­age.

“Even­tu­ally, they’re go­ing to have to re­place it,” he said, not­ing the vi­tal con­nec­tion is prob­a­bly the piece of Len­nox Is­land in­fra­struc­ture most vul­ner­a­ble to ris­ing seas.

Randy An­gus, di­rec­tor of in­te­grated re­source man­age­ment with the Mi’Kmaq Con­fed­er­acy of P.E.I., agrees. He co-or­di­nated a three-year pro­gram by the MCPEI, which looked into the vul­ner­a­bil­ity of the Len­nox Is­land and Abeg­weit First Na­tions.

Len­nox Is­land, be­ing a low­ly­ing is­land, is the most vul­ner­a­ble, he noted.

A 2.5-me­tre storm surge would flood the ex­ist­ing cause­way on both sides of the bridge. That same surge, Ha­ley said, would push the wa­ters some 400 me­tres in­land from the cause­way.

On the other side of Len­nox Is­land, fac­ing Bird Is­land, Ha­ley’s back step of his home is only a few pre­cious me­tres of real es­tate away from Malpeque Bay’s high-wa­ter mark. One pow­er­ful surge, with the wind push­ing it to­wards him, could bring the tide in his back door.

It’s not as sim­ple as pick­ing up and mov­ing fur­ther in­land on an is­land as small as Len­nox Is­land, let alone con­sid­er­ing 70 per cent of the land­mass is a peat bog. The First Na­tion has ac­quired a small par­cel of land across the bridge that, some time down the road, could be the mak­ing of a new com­mu­nity.

While Len­nox Is­land is tak­ing the threat of ris­ing sea lev­els se­ri­ously and plan­ning for it, Ha­ley won­ders if P.E.I. in gen­eral is as in tune with na­ture.

“If they were tak­ing it se­ri­ously, they wouldn’t be build­ing the way they’re build­ing, es­pe­cially along the coast,” he said.

“It’s great to have a home over­look­ing the wa­ter; it’s not so great to have a home over­look­ing the wa­ter as it’s com­ing in your front door. “That’s what’s go­ing to hap­pen.”

ERIC MCCARTHY/TC ME­DIA

David Ha­ley scours the shore­line in front of his Len­nox Is­land home. It’s just a few me­tres from Malpeque Bay and, like many prop­er­ties on Len­nox Is­land, could be threat­ened by the next big storm surge.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

This map of Len­nox Is­land, pro­duced by the UPEI Cli­mate Re­search Lab’s Coastal Im­pacts Visu­al­iza­tion En­vi­ron­ment pro­gram, shows the coast­line as it ap­peared in 1968 (red line) and 2010 (yel­low) and what is pro­jected for the year 2070 (blue).

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