New am­bu­lance build­ing be­ing con­structed in flood-risk zone

Sackville Tribune - - COVER STORY - BY KATIE TOWER

Con­struc­tion is now well un­der way on the new two-bay am­bu­lance build­ing on Rob­son Av­enue.


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.”



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