It’s hard to believe a wooden structure on the marsh near Amherst could have such an impact on the community, but concerns with the 56-year-old aboiteau have reached the point that the province really needs to stop studying the matter and get on with replacing it.
Provincial PC leader Jamie Baillie and Cumberland North PC candidate Judi Giroux met with concerned landowners on Tuesday and toured the aboiteau that holds back the power of Bay of Fundy from flooding the marshland and critical infrastructure around the town, including the Trans-Canada Highway, the railway and several million dollars in farmland and other infrastructure.
The provincial government has made no secret of its plans to fix the aboiteau. In November 2011, it announced it was spending $500,000 to hire a consulting firm to study the situation and come up with a workable solution.
At the time, landowners felt there would finally be some action after a previous attempt several years earlier failed just a couple of months after a new aboiteau was put in the LaPlanche River.
Since then, however, it has been relatively quiet and while the consultant has met with stakeholders in the area there has yet to be definitive word on when the province is going to actually replace the aboiteau.
As much as Baillie and Giroux could be accused of using the aboiteau to score political points on the eve of an election call, at least they were willing to listen to what landowners are saying with the PC leader saying he will hold the government’s feet to the fire to get action.
Baillie and other stakeholders were very clear with their message on Tuesday. The time for study has passed, it’s now time for action. While the existing aboiteau is continuing to hold, and there’s no indication of its imminent failure, those who know the marsh and the power of the Fundy tides fear it will only take one more major storm to cause its failure.
Global warming is a fact as are rising sea levels. It may be a number of years before those sea levels reach the point where they could threaten the dykelands, but LIDAR mapping has indicated what could happen if the water level rises and the aboiteau is breached. It’s not a pretty picture and one that would leave many asking why something hasn’t done to avoid a major calamity.
If it’s an issue of cost, the province has to compare that to what it would cost to repair the damage after the aboiteau fails. We can’t afford to continue playing games of chance with the aboiteau and the future of the area’s threatened by its failure.