Fifteen years ago Doug Bacon took Bill Casey out to the visit the dikes protecting his farmland from the rising tides of the Bay of Fundy.
That started an effort by the MP and others in the community to have repairs made to the the critical infrastructure that protects millions of dollars of agricultural land and communities. That was finally rewarded April 17 when federal Rural Economic Development Minister Bernadette Jordan and provincial Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister announced just under $50 million in funding to upgrade 60 kilometres of dikes and five aboiteaux within the Bay of Fundy dikeland system.
“Finally, something’s being done. It’s coming together after all this time,” said Bacon upon learning of the federal-provincial commitment. “This is a tremendous compliment to the federal and provincial governments to finally move ahead because many governments have looked at it but have put it off for another time. That time is now.”
The federal funding is through the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund, a $2-billion, 10-year program to help communities build the infrastructure needed to better withstand natural hazards such as flooding or rising sea levels.
Bacon has hundreds of hectares of lands behind the protective dikes in Nappan and several times over the years his land has been impacted when the Nappan River has overflowed its banks. He said it would disastrous should the waters of the bay go over the dikes.
“It would do a lot of damage. The salt water would take a long time to get out of the soil,” Bacon said. “The land would be useless.”
Casey said the funding in Cumberland County is focused on improving the dike at Advocate Harbour as well as dikes and aboiteaux in Nappan and Amherst Point.
“This money is mostly focused on residential and agricultural areas. The money we announced last year is for the study on the transportation corridor between Amherst and Sackville,” Casey said. “That study is nearing the time it will be started and the requests for proposals will be issued soon. This new money is new and will address the issue of rising sea levels.”
Casey said more than a decade ago this Isthmus of Chignecto, that connects Nova Scotia to the rest of North America, is among the most vulnerable to rising sea levels brought on by climate change.
“This money is for the engineering and the actual cost of doing the work,” Casey said. “We’ve been talking about this year and farmers have been coming to me about flooded farmland and the risk of flooding. This is a huge challenge to fend off the ocean, which is exactly what the dikes do.”
Casey said the work will be completed over a series of years.
Cumberland County’s EMO coordinator Mike Johnson said the threat of rising sea levels is real and it’s not a question of if it will happen, but when. He’s pleased to see the commitment made to address what could be disastrous.
“This is not all about protecting agricultural land, but Advocate, for instance, as a community has critical infrastructure at risk,” Johnson said. “Along with the threat to the population and the value of the farmland at risk, there’s also the issue of access to the roadways. Right now, we’re seeing the impact with the loss of the Rainbow Bridge and what happens when the Smith Road is flooded and the Nappan Road is flooded. That has tremendous impact on emergency vehicles.”
Johnson said it’s a start, but there’s a lot of work ahead to address the threat to the infrastructure. He said the threat is a large issue and it’s not something that has to be prepared for down the road.
“It is here today and we have to deal with it today,” Johnson said. “We’re seeing it in smaller quantities with the road washout and the campground washout in Spencer’s Island and we’ve had the topping of the dike in Advocate and we’ve had a mild topping of the dike in Nappan. We’ve also seen situations when the viewing platform on the aboiteau in Nappan has been six inches under water.”