Cumberland County’s mayor is calling on the provincial and federal governments to move forward on repairing the dikes along the Isthmus of Chignecto between Amherst, N.S. and Sackville, N.B.
In a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs and Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston, Murray Scott said his council is thankful for the Chignecto Isthmus Climate Change Adaptation Comprehensive Engineering and Feasibility Study that was released last spring but feels the proposed 10-year timeline for the work to be completed to be “totally unacceptable.”
“We believe it is time for the Canadian, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick governments to take action now. We believe enough studies have been conducted that clearly show the peril we face,” Scott said in his letter. “We call on our governments to take the necessary measures, as recommended in the study, to preserve and protect the Isthmus of Chignecto. We urge you to begin this work no later than the end of 2023.”
Scott said the cost of completing the protective measures would be much less than the cost of fixing the transportation links and the communities should their fears be realized the dikes breached either through a severe storm, or sea level rise.
“To us, it would be a lot easier to do something now before it breaks,” the mayor said.
The study recommended three options to preserve the Chignecto Isthmus trade corridor between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia amid climate change challenges. The options outlined in the $700,000 study include raising the dikes, building new dikes or raising the existing dikes and installing steel sheet pile walls at select locations.
The cost of the three options range from about $190 million to more than $300 million each.
The mayor’s letter comes in the wake of post-tropical storm Fiona devastated the Atlantic region and caused millions in damages to areas of northern Nova Scotia and Cape Breton, including Cumberland County.
“Here in Cumberland County, we fared better than our fellow Nova Scotians in Pictou County and Cape Breton and still experienced more destruction from a storm than we have in decades. We firmly believe it could’ve been much worse,” Scott said. “We were quite fortunate Fiona struck at low tide. We shudder to think what destruction would have occurred if the storm had hit during high tide.”
The mayor said the Saxby Gale, in October 1869, was an example of what can happen again. It occurred at high tide, breached the dikes, sank ships, and caused deaths and massive destruction to communities in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
“If Fiona had hit at a similar high tide, we are confident in saying insurers would have been paying out much more than $660 million,” the mayor said in the letter.
The mayor said similar studies have shown the isthmus would almost disappear during an extreme weather event if the dikes were breached. The flooding would be so extensive portions of Amherst and Sackville would be underwater.
Those studies have indicated the Trans-Canada Highway and the railway would both be cut if the dikes were breached, threatening $50 million of commercial goods that cross the isthmus.
Scott said it’s something that remains a possibility if the work identified in the study isn’t completed.