The Sunday Magazine

Rising sea levels threaten marsh ecosystem and key transportation link between Atlantic provinces

Surges in water levels pose a threat to towns, electrical systems and road and rail travel between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, as well as to the rest of Atlantic Canada.

The Trans-Canada Highway and rail line runs through Tantramar Marsh

Rising sea levels and eroded land threaten the areas around Tantramar Marsh, including road and rail travel between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, as well as to the rest of Atlantic Canada. (Janna Graham)

It's quite easy to drive right over the Tantramar Marsh, and not even think about stopping.

It's a flat stretch along the Trans-Canada Highway between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, a narrow strip of seemingly barren flatlands that doesn't exactly scream "scenic lookout." 

For many years, its major landmark was the imposing presence of the Radio-Canada International shortwave towers looming out from the swamp — the web of wire, steel, and antennas a friendly beacon for travellers. 

The towers are gone now.

So are hundreds of beautiful hay barns that were stationed throughout the fertile farmland, worked by Mi'kmaq, and by Acadian and British settlers over centuries.

If you've travelled between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick by road or rail, you've probably gone through the marsh. The Trans-Canada Highway and railway run across the flat land. (Janna Graham)

But the Tantramar Marsh remains.

Covering about 20,000 hectares at the top of the Bay of Fundy, it's one of the largest contiguous salt marshes on the Atlantic coast of North America — a magnet for wildlife, and a muse for artists and poets.

Photo gallery: Tantramar Marsh

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      From sweeping elegies about the tidal mudflats to realist paintings, the landscape has been romanticized for what it was.

      Now, rising sea levels mean change is coming once again to the Tantramar Marsh. 

      Surging waters combined with eroded land pose a threat not only to towns but to road and rail travel between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, as well as to the rest of Atlantic Canada. 

      Both the governments of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are well aware that there could be trouble here. A $700,000 study is looking at the feasibility of protecting this area as a transportation corridor. 

      Click 'listen' above to hear Janna Graham's documentary, "The Banished Sea," about the history and poetic powers of the Tantramar Marsh.


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