Mayors pleased with flood study of Chignecto Isthmus, land connecting N.S. to N.B.

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After concerns about rising sea levels near the Nova Scotia--New Brunswick border, the two provincial governments and the federal government are moving ahead with a study to look at options. As Callum Smith reports, many seem to be pleased with the news, but details are yet to be seen – Jan 31, 2020

Mayors on both sides of the New Brunswick-Nova Scotia border are pleased that next steps are being taken to look at environmental concerns with the land that connects the two Maritime provinces.

The Trans-Canada highway connecting Sackville, N.B., to Amherst, N.S., is a crucial corridor, along with the nearby rail track.

But with the threat of rising sea levels causing concern, the New Brunswick government is moving ahead with a study of the Chignecto Isthmus to try to figure out the best solution.

The $700,000 feasibility study is cost-shared with Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the federal government.

David Kogon, the mayor of the town of Amherst, says the price tag of the study alone indicates the importance of the project. Callum Smith / Global News

“If you’re going to invest that much money just to do a study, it tells everybody the importance,” says David Kogon, the mayor of the town of Amherst.

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The New Brunswick government says an estimated $50 million of trade is transported across the isthmus daily, totalling about $20 billion annually.

The mayors of both neighbouring towns initially met with MPs on both sides of the border to discuss action.

READ MORE: Bids sought for ways to protect Chignecto Isthmus from risk posed by rising seas

“First of all, we focused on the economic impacts of a dike breach and its impact on the economy, not only of the towns but also of the two provinces and frankly, Canada,” says John Higham, Sackville’s mayor.

But aside from the trade impact, there are more concerns for the local areas.

“A large proportion of both the town of Amherst and the town of Sackville are at risk of being under permanent flood conditions,” Kogon says.

A company called Wood Environment and Infrastructure Solutions will undertake the study.

It’s tasked with coming up with three different options for viable, resilient solutions to protect the roads, dikes and infrastructure on the Chignecto Isthmus.

John Higham, Sackville’s mayor, says a dike breach at the Chignecto Isthmus would impact trade across the country. Callum Smith / Global News

Both towns have declared climate emergencies.

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But while the mayors agree there’s more than trade at play, one group is highlighting the importance of protecting ecosystems.

“We think it’s really important to build the long-term resilience of the Chignecto Isthmus to climate change impacts,” says Roberta Clowater, the executive director of Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society New Brunswick chapter. “In order to do that, it’s really important to focus on protecting the existing natural ecosystems on the isthmus, like wetlands, salt marshes, forests.”

The New Brunswick government didn’t release a timeline in a news release Wednesday, but the mayors suspect the study itself could take a year’s worth of work, or more, before a proposed solution can be turned into action.

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