SURG­ING WA­TERS

Var­i­ous ar­eas of the prov­ince fac­ing wet fu­ture

Cape Breton Post - - Front Page - BY FRAN­CIS CAMP­BELL

Var­i­ous ar­eas of prov­ince fac­ing wet fu­ture.

Wa­ter, wa­ter ev­ery­where. An­cient Mariner poet Sa­muel Tay­lor Co­leridge could have been ref­er­enc­ing con­tem­po­rary Nova Sco­tia, from Yar­mouth to Truro and on to Syd­ney and most parts in be­tween.

“The wa­ter is pretty un­til it’s in your liv­ing room,” said An­drew MacKin­non, di­rec­tor of pub­lic works for Truro.

The prov­ince boasts 8,000 kilo­me­tres of coast­line, jump­ing to 13,000 kilo­me­tres when the land around har­bours, coves, in­lets and tidal es­tu­ar­ies are in­cluded. Sea level is ex­pected to rise by as much as a me­tre by cen­tury’s end, cre­at­ing higher storm surges in coastal ar­eas and along tidal es­tu­ar­ies.

“The best thing that we can do to try to mit­i­gate flood­ing is to ba­si­cally try to do storm-wa­ter man­age­ment projects to re­verse the ef­fect that ur­ban­iza­tion has had on our wet­lands over the past 100 years,” MacKin­non said.

The Town of Truro, Colch­ester County and Mill­brook First Na­tion struck a joint flood ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee that meets three or four times a year. The com­mit­tee is im­ple­ment­ing rec­om­men­da­tions of a $393,000 flood-risk study com­pleted in 2014.

“Our big­gest prob­lem here, as well as other ar­eas in the prov­ince, is that the Aca­dian dikes were built to pro­tect farm­land,” MacKin­non said. “With sea level rise and cli­mate change af­fect­ing the fresh­wa­ter side of things, with all of our de­vel­op­ment over the years, peo­ple have come to ex­pect the dikes to pro­tect ur­ban­iza­tion and they were never meant for that.

“If those dikes were never built in the first place, peo­ple would never have built on the salt­marshes be­cause they would flood ev­ery year. … Be­cause the dikes were built, peo­ple have been in­fill­ing them and build­ing on them and think­ing there is noth­ing wrong. “

The pri­mary flood mit­i­ga­tion plan is to reroute the dikes, mov­ing

them back to cre­ate more hold­ing ca­pac­ity on the marsh in­stead of wa­ter top­ping the dikes and gush­ing into ur­ban­ized ar­eas.

“Build­ings are still in jeop­ardy,” MacKin­non said. “We’ve iden­ti­fied most of these ar­eas as far back as the 1970s and have cre­ated, in con­junc­tion with the prov­ince and the fed­eral de­part­ments, the one-in-20 and even one in 100-year flood zones that we put cer­tain re­stric­tions on over the years. You’re not al­lowed to build in the one-in-20 ar­eas and if you build in the one-in-100, it has to be above a cer­tain level. Most of what gets flooded are things that were built be­fore that time frame.”

In Yar­mouth, Mayor Pam Mood said sea level rise threatens pri­vately and pub­licly owned in­fras­truc­ture in the town of 6,500 where the Bay of Fundy meets the North At­lantic.

“We are en­cour­ag­ing dense de­vel­op­ment,” Mood said. “Live where you work, work where you live.”

The town has a two-kilo­me­tre­long wa­ter­front.

“When I look out my win­dow, it’s mostly wharf,” the mayor said. “That’s built in­fras­truc­ture so we have to make sure that we main­tain that.”

The mayor said the old Dom­tex build­ing, a huge

wa­ter­front struc­ture, was re­cently de­mol­ished.

“The ques­tion is what can be re­built there. It won’t be the same as it was 10 or 20 years ago. It’s up to us to write the rules to make sure that what­ever is there, the el­e­va­tion is go­ing to have to change. We’re go­ing to have to pro­tect what comes next.”

Mood said the town will wel­come a fed­er­ally funded staffer to work on cli­mate change. Yar­mouth will work on seven so­lar panel projects and do traf­fic stud­ies on its busiest roads.

“Chang­ing traf­fic sig­nals so that traf­fic moves more freely, it’s all part of the whole ecosys­tem.”

In Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Mu­nic­i­pal­ity, it’s all about avoid­ing a re­peat of Oct. 10, 2016, when up to 225 mil­lime­tres of rain fell in one day and flooded hun­dreds of homes and busi­nesses

and turned roads into rivers. The prov­ince even­tu­ally bought 17 homes left un­in­hab­it­able by flood­ing.

Flood­ing in the Wash Brook area of south end Syd­ney was not re­lated to sea-level rise, Mal­colm Gil­lis of the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s plan­ning and de­vel­op­ment de­part­ment said in an email.

“Tide lev­els and sea-level rise will af­fect the lower reaches of the Wash Brook wa­ter­shed, re­gard­less of pre­cip­i­ta­tion, which pro­vides ad­di­tional chal­lenges in the ar­eas that are sus­cep­ti­ble to tidal ef­fects,” Gil­lis said.

Gil­lis said CBRM is adopt­ing a cli­mate change plan that will im­ple­ment adap­ta­tion meth­ods to keep “new de­vel­op­ments fur­ther, and higher from the shore than cur­rent pro­vi­sions.”

As the mu­nic­i­pal­ity awaits pro­posed coastal pro­tec­tion leg­is­la­tion from the prov­ince, Gil­lis said CBRM does not cur­rently stip­u­late a spe­cific set­back from coastal ar­eas, ei­ther hor­i­zon­tal or ver­ti­cal, other than the min­i­mum four-foot set­back from any prop­erty bound­ary and other than the bound­ary a prop­erty shares with a pub­lic street or road.

“We are now in­volved in a re­view of CBRM’s plan­ning strat­egy and will be in­tro­duc­ing a com­bi­na­tion of dis­tance and height set­backs from the shores of any sig­nif­i­cant body of wa­ter in the CBRM,” Gil­lis said.

He said the plan­ning strat­egy de­fines as sig­nif­i­cant bod­ies of wa­ter the At­lantic Ocean, the Bras d’Or Lake and the Mira River, but that could change.

“This is a com­plex is­sue,” Gil­lis said. “To quote the CBRM plan­ning strat­egy, ‘there is very lit­tle data avail­able to in­flu­ence an in­formed pol­icy direc­tive on the sub­ject.’”

The plan­ning strat­egy con­cluded that an “ar­bi­trary set­back im­posed with­out knowl­edge of the rate of ero­sion and the fac­tors caus­ing it would be too much of an im­po­si­tion on de­vel­op­ment in some sit­u­a­tions and too lit­tle to pro­tect de­vel­op­ment in oth­ers,” Gil­lis said. The mu­nic­i­pal­ity looks for­ward to the pro­vi­sions the prov­ince is con­sid­er­ing but it may move for­ward on its own, Gil­lis said.

CP PHOTO

A ve­hi­cle is sub­merged in south end Syd­ney af­ter the area flooded due to heavy rain­fall from a trop­i­cal storm in Oc­to­ber 2016.

THE CHRON­I­CLE HER­ALD

This sign in 2012 says it all at this road con­nect­ing Bible Hill and Truro.

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