New Brunswick

Rising sea levels and high-tide surge event could spell disaster for Saint John

Saint John's newly approved Climate Change Adaptation Plan includes colour maps to show what neighbourhoods, evacuation routes and industrial zones would be under water.

City's new climate change plan comes with flood maps

A map in Saint John's Climate Change Adaptation Plan shows streets and neighbourhoods that would flood if the causeway were breached in a high tide, rising sea level, storm surge event. (ACAP Saint John)

As an East Coast city, Saint John faces serious risks from climate change.

The projected one-metre rise in sea levels is by itself a big deal.

Factor in a storm surge event during a really high tide — a 20 to 50 percent probability by 2050 — and things get interesting.

Saint John's newly approved Climate Change Adaptation Plan includes colour maps to show what neighbourhoods, evacuation routes and industrial zones would be under water in that scenario.

Widespread impact

Take the Courtney Bay Causeway, a major route linking the Central Peninsula to the city's east side, and a vital piece of flood control infrastructure.

If it is breached, 22 emergency routes are expected to be affected, including the Saint John Throughway, Rothesay Avenue and much of the city's retail east side, including residential neighbourhoods.

Such an event could damage more than 1,800 homes and businesses along with 157 industrial properties, including petroleum storage sites.

Port infrastructure and parts of Saint John's lower west side neighbourhood would be at risk in the event of climate-change-driven coastal flooding. (ACAP Saint John)

The provincial government mandated the creation of the 100-page document and funded it through the Environmental Trust Fund at a cost of $100,000.

It is a precondition for approval of provincial infrastructure funds in the future. 

The work itself was contracted to ACAP Saint John.

City councillors like Greg Norton pointed to the maps showing neighbourhoods, municipal infrastructure and parks that could be flooded or isolated.

 "You make it real by talking about things that are important to people and how they could be at threat," said Norton, listing off key landmarks. "The Port of Saint John, RKYC, Partridge Island, Long Wharf, Market Slip, Tin Can Beach, I could keep going."

Ways to reduce risk

The plan also looks at other climate change impacts, such as coastal erosion, worsening spring freshets, water-borne diseases and homelessness.

It makes recommendations to reduce risks down the road.

The document is to be incorporated into the municipal plan.

City manager John Collin told councillors it will be up to him and his staff to follow the directions set out in the document.

"They are plans," said Collin. "Let there be no doubt, they are plans. We now have an obligation as your staff to ensure that we achieve those plans. The onus is on us."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Connell Smith is a reporter with CBC in Saint John. He can be reached at 632-7726 Connell.smith@cbc.ca

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