Nova Scotia

Wolfville prepares to protect downtown from climate change, flooding

Officials in Wolfville, N.S., fear infrastructure such as the sewage treatment plant and the downtown business district could at risk of flooding from the powerful waters of the Minas Basin and Bay of Fundy. 

'When you look at the flood map out 10, 20, 30 years, I tell you, it makes one really think,' says mayor

Officials in Wolfville fear critical infrastructure could be at risk of flooding. (Robert Short/CBC)

The town of Wolfville, N.S., is preparing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to protect its downtown area from future flooding caused by climate change.

Town officials fear infrastructure such as the sewage treatment plant and the downtown business district could be at risk from the powerful waters of the Minas Basin and Bay of Fundy. 

"When you look at the flood map out 10, 20, 30 years, I tell you, it makes one really think," said Mayor Jeff Cantwell. 

"It is a topic of conversation in and around town on a fairly regular basis — what are we going to do to preserve our downtown?" 

On Christmas Eve, the town issued a tender for proposals for a flood-risk mitigation plan. Cantwell said both rising sea levels and storms caused by climate change are driving the concern. 

"If there were any kind of saltwater intrusion, we'd be affected by any significant flood," said Cantwell. "It could affect our infrastructure both at the waste area and of course the potable water area."

Wolfville Mayor Jeff Cantwell says protecting the downtown area from flooding is often discussed in town. (CBC)

At the same time, the town is also getting ready to start shoreline protection on an area of the waterfront park between the Duck Pond and Acadia University, near where many businesses are located. 

Cantwell said the town experienced flooding earlier this year during heavy rains. 

"There was water up to above the axles of all the cars running downtown," he said. 

In Wolfville's 2019-2020 capital investment plan for the next 10 years, the town allocated $350,000 for shoreline protection and $50,000 for flood-risk mitigation in the first year.

The plan also envisioned a further $50,000 for flood-risk mitigation in 2020-2021. 

In April, town council voted to ask the province for help with that funding. Cantwell said the town is also looking to the federal government for assistance, as are many communities along the Bay of Fundy.

Town officials approved hundreds of thousands of dollars of investment to prevent flooding. (Robert Short/CBC)

"It's not something that you can stop, but it's something that we have to manage," he said. 

The tender for flood-risk mitigation is due on Jan. 16. As well, Cantwell said the town hopes to approve its 10-year municipal planning strategy in January for finalization before April 1, 2020. 

That planning strategy will incorporate information about parts of the town that are at risk from climate change.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shaina Luck

Reporter

Shaina Luck is an investigative reporter with CBC Nova Scotia. She has worked with local and network programs including The National and The Fifth Estate. Email: shaina.luck@cbc.ca

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