New Brunswick

Saint John coming up with ways to lessen extreme weather effects

The City of Saint John has been counted as one of three areas of the province trying to become a Smart Energy Community against extreme weather events.

City and 5 other Canadian municipalities taking steps to become a Smart Energy Community

A Saint John worker shown here cleaning up after the December ice storm in 2014. The city is coming up with ways to lessen effects of extreme weather events. (CBC)

As cold snaps, heavy rain and freezing rain and now flooding have battered many New Brunswick communities in recent months, the City of Saint John is one of three areas of the province trying to become a Smart Energy Community against extreme weather events.

Saint John, Campbellton, and Tracadie are among the six municipalities in Canada working with Quality Urban Energy Systems of Tomorrow, or QUEST, with a goal of becoming more resilient with energy and infrastructure.

Forward thinking

"We have to plan our infrastructure to address climate change and extreme weather events in the future," said Samir Yammine, energy manager for the City of Saint John.

"So we need to be smart here to do it. We know extreme weather events happen gradually, so we need to understand our energy distribution system to see, does it really adapt or cope with events like flooding, rainstorms or ice storms?

"We need to start thinking in the future, so how can this go, how can we address it in case we have extreme weather events in Saint John," Yammine told Information Morning Saint John.

Samir Yammine is energy manager for the City of Saint John. (Photo submitted)

That infrastructure could include roads, buildings and water and sewerage systems "that would have a hazardous effect, a consequence or failure," Yammine said Monday.

"So what happens if our water pumping station failed? What are the consequences of that failure, how can we mitigate its risks?"

The six municipalities and utilities seeking the designation also include Devon, Okotoks and Cochrane in Alberta.

Saint John 'vulnerable'

The project will identify various climate change hazards such as flooding, rising sea water, ice storms, high intensity rain and heavy snow, and the impacts of those weather events on the community.

Saint John's location on the Bay of Fundy, the St. John River, and the Kennebecasis River makes the community particularly vulnerable to the fate of climate change, Yammine said.

"So we are responsible for managing the system, and this is part of the study. To try and identify areas and determine what mitigation should be done to reduce the risk," said Yammine.

"It could be underground storage to store water during rain events, so this would minimize flooding in the area."

Yammine said the city has already implemented some changes.

It built an underground storage tank on the west side to address flooding in the Bleury Street and Honeysuckle Drive areas.

And it built a storm-water detention pond to manage flooding in the Millidgeville area, and a sewer backup on Woodward Avenue and Boars Head Road.

'Smart' by 2019

The city is also considering future climate risks as part of its municipal planning.

Yammine hopes to have the Smart Energy Community designation by 2019.

QUEST was selected by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities through its climate adaptation partner grants.

Saint John is also among 25 municipalities in New Brunswick required by the province to complete a climate change action plan by 2020.

With files from Information Morning Saint John