‘Historic’ Halifax seawall being redeveloped as municipality seeks to reduce impact of climate change

Click to play video: 'HRM repairing Northwest arm sea wall' HRM repairing Northwest arm sea wall
WATCH: The Halifax regional municipality is repairing and adding more height to the popular Northwest sea wall in response to rising waters. Alexa MacLean reports – Jul 10, 2019

A popular and historic seawall on Halifax’s Northwest Arm is being ‘future-proofed’ against rising sea levels caused by climate change.

“We’ve taken into account sea level rise projections in redeveloping that seawall and my colleagues have been working on a one metre increase in height for the sea wall. So, that’s an example of how we can protect some of the coastal assets, or coastal lands in that area so that they continue to be enjoyed for generations to come,” said Alex MacDonald, Halifax Regional Municipality’s (HRM) climate change specialist.

Construction crews could be seen hard at work at the Horshoe Island Park seawall this week as they continued their efforts to prepare the municipality’s sea walls.

Improvements to the Sir Sandford Fleming Park seawall were completed earlier this summer.

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Nova Scotia will see the greatest amount of local sea-level rise in Atlantic Canada, according to information from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

READ MORE: Nova Scotia set to regulate coastal construction as sea levels rise

MacDonald says that many government officials came to recognize the negative impacts of climate change after the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Juan and the infamously disruptive White Juan in the early 2000s.

“The hurricane being an extreme storm in recent memory that had impacts on infrastructure, unfortunately impacts on human lives as well and it’s something that I think really helps the municipality and other entities focus on the fact that climate change impacts are real, they are occurring, they’re something we need to address,” he said.

The HRM is currently rolling out a long-term climate change plan called ‘HalifACT 2050.’

“It’s looking at ways out to 2050 that we can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and also adapt to the climate change impacts we’re already seeing and those that we expect to come,” he said.

The reality of rising sea levels and other impacts of climate change are things that Nancy Anningson says she addresses on a daily basis.

Anningson, the senior coastal adaptation coordinator at the Ecology Action Centre, says she often receives calls after major storms hit.

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“Every time in the winter there’s a big storm event like a Nor’easter I get calls from people who are in danger,” she said.

“Their homes are in danger, predictions have them within sometimes within 20-years being flooded, having their wells intruded by salt water, or their septic field being in danger”

WATCH: Halifax students lead climate march through downtown streets

Click to play video: 'Halifax students lead climate march through downtown streets' Halifax students lead climate march through downtown streets
Halifax students lead climate march through downtown streets – May 3, 2019

Anningson says sharing information with people is one of the best ways to prepare and adapt for the future impacts of accelerated coastal erosion and extreme water levels.

“What we also need to do is assess the risk around Nova Scotia’s coastline, find those high-risk areas where homes are about to fall off cliffs, or about to be flooded and give information to the home and property owners and help them adapt,” she said.

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Nova Scotia is also attempting to protect and adapt the province for the impacts of climate change — doing so under their Coastal Protection Act.

“It’s specifically to protect it [coastline] from inappropriate coastal development. No more putting houses, or cottages, or other buildings in dangerous places and in places that will impact coastal ecosystems like dunes and salt marshes that are trying to absorb the wave energy and withstand what’s happening, withstand storm surge and so on,” Anningson said.

In the meantime, projects like the redevelopment of the Horseshoe Island Park seawall are examples of how cities and people are changing to adapt to the new reality.

“The infrastructure that was built in some cases centuries ago was not built with sea level rise in mind. The infrastructure we’re adding today, certainly we can be aware of how to plan for sea level rise in the future and how to accommodate that,” MacDonald said.

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