HALIFAX – The future of Halifax’s waterfront and the possibility it could find itself underwater was discussed at a first-of-its-kind planning meeting.
New projections of the impact of climate change on the waterfront were on display Monday at a design meeting organized by the Ecology Action Centre, Dalhousie School of Planning, Halifax Regional Municipality and Waterfront Development. It was meant for planners and designers to brainstorm ideas for how to plan and design a climate smart waterfront.
Jennifer Graham, coastal coordinator for the Ecology Action Centre, said this is the first time the meeting was organized.
“We’re really trying to make people realize that climate change is changing our coasts so quickly that it has major implications for how we plan, how we live, the business and transportation on the coasts,” she said.
Graham estimates water levels will rise between 10 and 15 centimetres in the next 30 years.
“A lot of our infrastructure is at risk of being flooded or whacked by heavy winds and water,” she said.
Andy Fillmore, vice-president of Waterfront Development, said rising water levels in Halifax Harbour will become obvious over time.
“Along the wharfs and piers, we will start to see higher tides reaching higher levels, more rungs of the ladder will disappear and the boats that are tied up will bob a little higher,” he said.
Fillmore said it is important to be proactive when it comes to how climate change will affect the municipality’s shoreline.
“Do we raise our buildings up out of the ground? Do we build walls to prevent storm water from coming into the development? Do we build at the waterfront at all?”
He said suggestions discussed at the meeting will be folded into a master plan for the waterfront and estimates the master plan will be completed in the next 18 to 24 months.
HRM Planner John Charles said it is important for the municipality to plan long term.
“You know the projections for sea level rise are not immediate, they’re over many decades,” he said.
But he notes it is nothing new for Halifax to experience.
“We’ve always experienced sea level rise in Halifax. It’s not a recent phenomenon. We’ve responded by building a little bit higher every year as new developments go in,” he said.