New ambulance building being constructed in flood-risk zone
Construction is now well under way on the new two-bay ambulance building on Robson Avenue.
SACKVILLE TRIBUNE- POST
A local environmental consultant and climate change adaptation specialist is calling on town and provincial officials to take a second look at where a new ambulance station is being built in Sackville and consider putting a halt to the development.
Sabine Dietz says the new facility is being constructed in an area that is at risk of being cut off from the rest of town if a major storm surge hits the area.
“This is a really bad spot,” says Dietz. “You can’t have an ambulance building where you can have roads cut off. It makes no sense.”
Dietz has sent a letter to the Sackville mayor and council as well as town staff to raise her con-
cerns and ask them to reverse a decision they made last year to allow for a new ambulance building to be developed on Robson Avenue.
“Placing an essential emergency service in a flood risk area is illogical and dangerous and puts lives at risk,” she writes in her letter.
The letter was also sent to the local MLA, as well as the minister of public safety and minister of environment and local government.
While Sackville was one of the first communities in New Brunswick to adopt a new flood-risk map into its zoning bylaw in 2013, based on predicted sea level rise at the time, Dietz explains the 8.9metre floodplain level estimated more than five years ago is no longer adequate and also doesn’t
account for the depth of potential flooding.
“What was not considered back then was the magnitude of difference of having 10 to 20 centimetres of water over a road or around a home, compared to having more than 1.4 metres of water over a road or around a home,” she says. “The impacts of that amount of water can be considerable, especially if one adds some wind into the mix.”
Dietz is not referring to flood risk from heavy rainfall events but from coastal flooding that could occur due to sea level rise and storm surges, mixed with an aging dyke system across the marsh that is already on the verge of being breached during high-tide events.
She says the town simply cannot rely on the current dykes to protect the community from in- This is the area around Exit 506, with the current flood zone indicated in blue. As is visible from this map, a potential flood of 8.9m puts water over all access roads to the area around Crescent, Cattail and Robson streets. The new ambulance building is being built on Robson Avenue. This map was developed by Dr. David Lieske, Mount Allison University, as part of the Tantramar Community Adaptation Viewer project, about five years ago.
creasingly unpredictable events. And while there is a potential solution in the works to possibly build up the dykes in an effort to protect the critical transportation corridors (highway and rail lines) and infrastructure that lies along the New Brunswick-nova Scotia border, it could be years before any work gets under way and may still not guarantee absolute protection for the town’s low-lying areas.
“We don’t even know what they’re going to do about the dykes, what they’re going to decide,” says Dietz of the federal and provincial governments.
She says coastal flooding is a real threat and the mapping has been done to substantiate that risk. And, in fact, the risk con-
tinues to rise every year. So the municipality should be starting to plan more long-term, she says, and not allow essential services or facilities to be developed in those flood-risk areas.
“It just shouldn’t be done,” says Dietz. “We can’t keep putting our head in the sand. We have the information in front of us so there’s no real excuse. When we know . . . why do we allow the risk?”
Dietz says under normal circumstances, the Robson Avenue location might seem a perfect site for an ambulance facility, with access to the Trans-canada Highway only seconds away. But she is concerned the potential risks are being ignored.
“It becomes a problem when you cut off first responders.”