New Brunswick

Saint John gets climate change money to move infrastructure to higher ground

The federal government has approved funding to repair or move critical Saint John infrastructure to deal with rising sea levels and floods associated with climate change.

Sewage pumping stations and electrical substation to move, seawall to be raised

An illustration released by the City of Saint John and the federal government shows the former coast guard site entirely underwater at times by 2100. (Infrastructure Canada, City of Saint John)

The federal government will spend $11.9 million help repair or move critical Saint John infrastructure to deal with rising sea levels and floods associated with climate change.

The money will be directed at rebuilding and raising the level of the seawall at the former Coast Guard property on the Saint John waterfront and to moving city sewage pumping stations and electrical infrastructure to higher ground.

Saint John Energy, the city-owned electrical utility, and the City of Saint John will kick in $20 million between them for the projects.

The announcement about the money coming from the federal Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Fund was made on the waterfront with the former coast guard site in the background. 

"Climate change is real, it's happening, it's man-made," said Marco Mendicino, parliamentary secretary to the minister of infrastructure and communities.  

"And if we don't do disaster mitigation projects like this one, people of Saint John are going to be very exposed and vulnerable."

City asset manager Samir Yammine says underwater sonar tests will be performed on the existing seawall to determine the scope of work required. (Graham Thompson, CBC)

The city now owns most of the former coast guard site and is talking with developers in hopes of turning it into a major commercial-retail development worth as much as $200 million and dubbed Fundy Quay. 

Rebuilding and raising the crumbling concrete and steel seawall was deemed essential to attracting investors to the six-acre site.

Samir Yammine, the city's asset manager, said that underwater ultrasonic testing will be performed to better determine the condition of the wall.

"We know the sea level rise is increasing exponentially right now," said Yammine. "We don't want to pay the cost later on."

The federal government is picking up $3.2 million of the cost of the seawall project, with the city handling the remaining $4.9 million.

Pumping stations to be moved

Further infrastructure work outside the scope of Wednesday's funding announcement will be required on the site, including the removal of contaminated soils and raising the surface level of the property by 1.5 metres. An underground parking lot is also being considered.

The funding will also allow nine sewage pumping stations and one water pumping station to be moved to higher ground, with Ottawa picking up $4 million of the $10.2 million cost.

A further $11.4 million is to be set aside to move the Saint John Energy electrical substation on the waterfront at Smythe Street. The federal fund will pick up $4.5 million of the $11.4 million cost.

The substation serves 7,500 city residents and 1,150 businesses employing more than 25 percent of the regional workforce.



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