It may seem like a very small step in terms of the scale of the problem, but the $700,000 being invested by three governments in a study on the future protection of the Chignecto transportation corridor is certainly tax dollars well spent.
Cumberland-Colchester MP Bill Casey made the announcement on behalf of the federal government earlier this month. The study will explore viable options to climate change impacts on the Chignecto Isthmus trade corridor that links Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
The federal government is providing $350,000 for the study through its $2-billion, 11-year Trade and Transportation Initiative while the governments of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are each chipping in $175,000.
Farmers, environmentalists and politicians have been expressing concerns for several years about the vulnerability of the dikes that protect the vast amount of land and critical infrastructure linking our two provinces. Casey has been a vocal activist for several years expressing his concern about the condition of the marshland dikes and rising sea levels.
As well, municipal leaders on both sides of the border should be commended for proactively taking up the cause and formally lobbying federal and provincial governments in both provinces to address the problem. The urgency to replace the crumbling dikes has been heightened in recent years with rising sea levels and the frequency of storm surges and it is more evidence of the impact climate change is having on our planet.
We have seen the disastrous impact of flooding in other coastal regions and without some major preventative measures soon, we could experience the catastrophic results that will come with the breaching of those dikes here in our own communities.
As Casey has pointed out, it’s not a question of if the dikes will be breached, it’s simply a question of when. He estimated Nova Scotia could become an island in the next two decades. Sackville’s Mayor John Higham has pointed out there’s been a 20-centimetre increase in sea level rise in the Bay of Fundy measured at the Port of Saint John.
According to a 2016 study by Natural Resources Canada, a government body analyzing the impacts of climate change on this region, flooding from rising sea levels would cut off transportation from national highways and railways, costing an estimated $50 million a day in lost commerce.
There will be no easy or inexpensive fix in replacing the more than 300-year-old system of dikes on the Marsh, but it needs to be done and soon. It is refreshing to see just what can be accomplished when governments at all levels and between different jurisdictions can work in partnership to address an issue that could have dire consequences for so many people.
Waiting for disaster to strike rather than putting preventative measures in place could prove to be a much more costly proposition.
Geoff deGannes is the past chairman of the Tantramar Radio Society. His daily commentaries can be heard on 107.9 CFTA.