Nova Scotia

Feds want study on how climate change will impact ferries, Confederation Bridge

The federal government has issued a tender to get a better understanding of how six Eastern Canadian ferry terminals, two airports and the bridge to P.E.I. will cope with climate change and extreme weather events.

Infrastructure is 'vulnerable to sea level rise, increased storm activities and changing wave climate'

The Confederation Bridge, which links P.E.I. and New Brunswick, is the only bridge in Eastern Canada that will be looked at as part of the analysis. (Canadian Press)

The federal government wants a better understanding of how climate change and extreme weather could affect key parts of infrastructure in Eastern Canada.

tender for a vulnerability and risk assessment was issued Friday and applies to the Confederation Bridge, airports in Wabush, N.L., and St. Anthony, N.L., as well as ferry terminals in: 

  • Digby, N.S.
  • Saint John, N.B.
  • Caribou, N.S. 
  • Wood Islands, P.E.I.
  • Souris, P.E.I.
  • Cap-aux-Meules, Que. 

The Public Works tender says the sites listed are vulnerable to "sea level rise, increased storm activities and changing wave climate" and Ottawa wants to identify any areas that are at risk of failure or damage.

No one from Public Works and Government Services Canada was available to comment Friday on the tender.

Nancy Anningson, coastal adaptation co-ordinator for the Halifax-based Ecology Action Centre, said the undertaking sends a signal that authorities recognize rising sea levels can have a dramatic effect on infrastructure.

Nancy Anningson is the coastal adaptation senior co-ordinator at Halifax's Ecology Action Centre. (CBC)

She said that even if bridges, ferry terminals and airports were constructed with climate change in mind, the increase in extreme weather events and rising sea level predictions means the work is never-ending.

Plans for the Confederation Bridge, for example, took into account higher sea levels, but the estimated rate of rise has increased since the span opened in 1997, said Anningson.

Avoiding 'catastrophic failure'

"Even though great planning was done at the time, as the predictions change, then we have to take a look at how climate change will affect this structure and continue to monitor and adapt as we can so these structures will continue to exist and we won't have a catastrophic failure," she said.

Anningson said she hopes more work of this nature will be done in the future, but she'd also support a broader scope.

"I would very much like to see something similar where we're taking a look all around the province at our coastline and we're assessing structures that are at risk and therefore people who are at risk," she said. 

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Richard Woodbury is a journalist with CBC Nova Scotia's digital team. He can be reached at