PEI

Climate change study on Confederation Bridge, ferry terminals 'very necessary': UPEI climate lab director

The federal government has issued a tender for a study on the effects of climate change on the Confederation Bridge and other infrastructure in Atlantic Canada.

Study necessary for 'crucial infrastructure,' says Adam Fenech

The Confederation Bridge was built to allow for a rise of one metre in sea levels, Adam Fenech says. (Submitted: Central Coastal PEI)

The federal government has issued a tender for a study on the effects of climate change on the Confederation Bridge and other infrastructure in Atlantic Canada.

It's a move that is "very necessary," UPEI climate lab director Adam Fenech told CBC News: Compass guest-host Steve Bruce.

The tender was issued Friday for a vulnerability and risk assessment for the bridge, P.E.I.'s ferry terminals in Wood Islands and Souris, and other terminals and airports across the Maritimes and Newfoundland.

"It's crucial infrastructure for us to maintain our food security and our safety. Those are the ways we get people on and off the Island, and the way we get food on and off the Island," Fenech said.

"They're probably the most important assets of the federal government [on P.E.I.,] in addition to the [Charlottetown] airport."

'Significant rates of coastal erosion'

The list also includes airports in Wabush, N.L., and St. Anthony, N.L., as well as ferry terminals in Digby, N.S., Caribou, N.S., Saint John, N.B., and Cap-aux-Meules, Que., on the Magdalen Islands.

'Those are the ways we get people on and off the Island,' Adam Fenech says of the Confederation Bridge and ferry terminals. (CBC)

"Climate change is really having a significant impact on the world and especially on Prince Edward Island. We are seeing sea levels rise, we are seeing significant rates of coastal erosion," Fenech said.

The Confederation Bridge was built in 1997 to allow for a rise of one metre in sea levels, Fenech said.

'Significant damage' possible from hurricanes

The director said the main threat he sees to large infrastructure like the bridge is weather events like hurricanes, although it's been a "relatively quiet decade" on that front, he said.

"We've seen pretty significant damage when these storms happen. It's a combination of the sea level rising and specific meteorological conditions in which water is pushed up higher onto the land by the wind."

This ferry travels between Souris, P.E.I., and the Magdalen Islands. (Laura Chapin/CBC)

The risk is not so much with the potential damage, but whether it would result in a closure of the infrastructure.

"If the bridge is closed for a significant amount of time, say a couple of days, all of a sudden our shelves in our food stores are empty."

There are ways to build up the resilience of such a structure, like the sandstone breakwaters installed at the causeway in Souris, Fenech said.

'The sea eventually wins'

Homeowners with properties near the water may also want to look at a risk assessment, he said.

"We can come out and take a look and see if it's something you need to be worried about."

Structures can be pulled away from the shore, raised up or even protected, but ultimately, there's no fighting the water, Fenech said.

"The sea eventually wins."

More P.E.I. news

With files from Steve Bruce

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