This company is imagining the future of flooding in Mahone Bay
3D Wave Design developed an interactive model that shows flood risk
A Mi'kmaw-owned animation and communications company has created a 3D interactive map of Mahone Bay's waterfront that shows the risk of flooding, and how a living shoreline could help protect the Nova Scotia town.
The online tool developed by 3D Wave Design uses real-world data to simulate the impacts of climate change. The aerial model shows parking lots, cars and buildings, as well as Mahone Bay's iconic three churches.
"This makes it personable and actionable, and that's what we're all about, is giving non-technical people, or leaders, or the public the information to make decisions and help mitigate risk," co-founder Barry Stevens, a member of the Acadia First Nation, told CBC Radio's Information Morning this week.
The model simulates how far the water could rise based on certain conditions, such as wave height and storm surge. There's also an option to add a living shoreline and see how it helps to protect the coast from rising water.
The Town of Mahone Bay is preparing to build a living shoreline in front of the three churches on Edgewater Street. Construction of the pilot project begins this summer and is expected to be completed next year.
Mayor David Devenne said his coastal community is very vulnerable to powerful storm surges and sea level rise, and that Hurricane Juan in 2003 was a wake-up call.
"That's when we, the people in Mahone Bay and the council of the day, sat up and took notice and realized that there was a potential problem here that we needed to investigate, and then we needed to consider what potential solutions there might be," he said.
Over the years, storms have eroded the road that wraps around the coast, Devenne said.
Using real-world data
3D Wave Design's software uses LiDAR data, "which you can think of as an incredibly accurate 3D scan of the environment," said lead developer Noah Stevens, who runs the business with his dad.
"The LiDAR itself captures data points that are within three centimetres of accuracy so it works really well for us when we show flooding because it's actually how it would be [in the] real world," he added.
Users can interact with the map in a few different ways, setting tide height and projected storm surge. In other models the company has created, they use data from climate scientists to also show projected sea level rise.
In a fairly typical scenario, with high tide reaching about two meters above sea level, the water gets close to some of the buildings in town.
"The town was built pretty much on ... an existing flood plain and it's low," said Barry Stevens, who lives in Mahone Bay.
"Even our high tides now, the full moon tides, come up precariously close to the roads and the parking lots and some of the houses can have their basements almost touched every month or two."
In 2015, Mahone Bay asked engineering and environmental design firm CBCL Ltd. to create a plan for a living shoreline. Six years later, thanks to federal funding, a group of organizations is getting ready to put those plans into action.
The living shoreline will include rock sills, mounds of rock farther out in the water, as well as a tidal wetland and a raised bank covered in vegetation, said Samantha Battaglia, climate change team lead with Coastal Action, a non-profit environmental research and management organization based on the South Shore.
All three parts of the living shoreline work together to help reduce wave energy and limit erosion along the coast, she said.
Next spring, Coastal Action plans to host community planting days where Mahone Bay residents can plant native brushes and shrubs along the bank and wetland areas.
"These plants are typically very hardy, they're salt tolerant, they can withstand periodic disturbance, periodic flooding," Battaglia said.
In April, researchers with the Halifax-based TransCoastal Adaptations Centre for Nature-based Solutions dropped cinder blocks into the water to begin collecting data, including the height of waves and water levels.
"We're hoping that this pilot project, and the modelling that 3D Wave Designs did, will not just help communicate the ideas to the public, but also help generate interest," Battaglia said.
With files from CBC Radio's Information Morning