WINDSOR, N.S. — As the threat of sea level rise and harsher weather events becomes more and more apparent, the federal government has announced a funding program to invest in climate change and natural disaster mitigation infrastructure, which could include enhancing Nova Scotia’s aging dyke system.
Scott Brison, MP for Kings-Hants and President of the Treasury Board, made the announcement on behalf of Amarjeet Sohi, the federal minister of infrastructure and communities, at the West Hants municipal office on May 17, 2018.
“Clearly the province has been working on raising the heights of dykes across Nova Scotia in order to prepare for more extreme weather patterns and to protect us from flooding,” Brison said. “These kinds of efforts are ones that we can partner with, with this fund.”
The Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund (DMAF) is a nationwide pool of money, $2 billion, which will be spread out over 10 years. DMAF will support large-scale infrastructure projects, with a minimum cost of $20 million. These project could entail diversion channels, wetland restorations, wildfire barriers and setback levees.
Brison said the funds will be distributed to applicants based on merit. The deadline for provinces, territories, municipalities and First Nation communities to apply to the fund is July 31, 2018.
“We can also look particularly in areas where transportation infrastructure is imperiled by rising waters,” he said. “It’s less expensive to address these things preemptively before disaster strikes, than reactively afterwards.”
Climate change already a factor
When asked if this funding would help to prevent those types of incidents from happening, Brison said there have been a number of examples, mainly from extreme weather events, where infrastructure has been damaged.
“These investments will help protect the infrastructure in the first place,” he said. “Because this part of Nova Scotia is a tidal and tidal river area, that does have significant levels of dyking. There is vulnerability here. We are here to invest alongside other levels of government to protect our communities.”
Brison also referenced the flooding situation along the Saint John River in New Brunswick as another example of flooding mitigation infrastructure that’s needed.
“It’s a reminder of the importance of these investments, and doing it preemptively,” he said.
Brison, who lives in Cheverie along the Hants Shore, said he’s noticed first-hand the impact of climate change, including more severe weather and erosion on people’s properties.
“As a citizen, you notice this,” he said. “You can’t live on the Hants Shore without an understanding of the impacts of climate change and a need to act.”
When asked about the federal government’s efforts to push for the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline System to be expanded, which would likely increase the country’s overall greenhouse gas emissions, Brison said the government believes there’s a need for energy projects while also protecting the environment.
“We have a responsibility to develop our energy resources responsibly, at the same time we’re investing $1.6 billion in the ocean protection place, proving that the economy and the environment go hand-in-hand,” he said.
Province welcomes funding
Lloyd Hines, the minister of transportation and infrastructure renewal, said the province still has to look into how the application process works before applying for any specific projects.
“I don’t expect that to take a long time, but it could eat up the rest of this year before we’ll be (submitting) applications,” Hines said.
One example of a project that could receive funding is the causeway/aboiteau on Highway 101 near Windsor. Hines said he was thrilled that this was a possibility.
“When Scott (Brison) used (the causeway) as a good example (it) warms the cockles of my heart,” he said. “We’re very hopeful that particular portion of Highway 101 rebuild, with the sensitive nature of the aboiteau and the need to understand the importance of the aboiteau, we know that’ll require special effort.”
“We’ll definitely be pursuing this program when we are fully apprised of what the parameters are,” he said.
Hines also said many of the dykes in the Annapolis Valley could tap into this funding as well.
“Many of the dykes, particularly in that section of the province, maintain very fertile farmland in the Valley,” he said. “I know the minister of agriculture has been troubled over time that these dykes need a lot of repair, and it’s expensive to do that. Trying to find money in a province as frugal as we are is a challenge.”
“I know my colleague in that department is hopeful that this federal program will help fund the repair, reinstatement and maintenance of agricultural dykes.”