Tuesday, April 16, 2024

‘Climate-ready’ causeway in the works for Parker Hart Road

Tidal surges cause flooding

  • March 20 2024
  • By Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter    

MARSHALL POINT — Residents of this coastal enclave at the northeastern mouth of Guysborough Harbour should soon get a more “climate-ready” causeway to better resist the growing number of damaging tidal surges in the area, according to a provincial official.

“The department is aware of the flooding that occurs along the road during high water events,” Department of Public Works spokesperson Gary Andrea told The Journal in an email on March 15. “A tender is expected to be issued in the summer for work along the provincial section of the road.”

The news came only days after surrounding seawater left the provincial causeway between Parker Hart Road and Eastside Harbour Road submerged and impassable on March 12. “It was a tidal surge, predicted by the meteorologists,” resident Jack Leonard told The Journal last week. “And, it has done it in the past.”

In January, Leonard and 12 of his neighbours who live on Parker Hart Road sent a letter to Guysborough-Tracadie MLA Greg Morrow asking that he “engage with authorities in the province and/or county who can initiate a long-term strategic approach that ensures our safety as residents; and recognizes that climate change requires a longer-term solution that addresses the increasing likelihood of tidal surges.”

The letter said, in part: “For those of us who reside on PHR [Parker Hart Road] year-round, these risks are immediate and tangible ... On the evening of January 10, 2024, a resident arrived to find the causeway completely submerged under 2+ feet of sea water and realized that it would have been unsafe to attempt to drive over the road.

“We are very concerned that in the event of an emergency (health, fire, crime) during a storm that no one would be able to cross the road and what this could mean to our personal safety ... Furthermore, while this recent storm resulted in the road being impassable at the time, it also left significant erosion on the causeway – something that with climate change is likely to be a recurrent problem that will require frequent attention if left unaddressed.”

In a statement to the Journal this week, Morrow said, “I’ve have been working together with residents in this area and the Department of Public Works, [staying] engaged with residents as recently as last week. I’m very pleased to say that [the] effort has led to additional funding, which includes shoreline protection work designed to mitigate the problems in this area.”

In his email last week, Andrea stated: “Staff continue to look at options to help prevent this from occurring in the future. We have a strong capital plan and we have been steadily upgrading and improving infrastructure to be more resilient across the province. The Department considers climate change and adaptation when planning and designing bridges, highway upgrading and new construction projects. All new projects are designed and constructed with climate change readiness in mind.”

Still, residents and municipal and provincial officials agree that the problems at Parker Hart Road may be a sign of things to come along Nova Scotia’s 8,000 kilometres of coastline, 400 of which lie in the Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG).

Last month, the Department of Environment and Climate Change (ECC) released 15 “actions” that it urged everyone – homeowners, municipal officials, provincial authorities – to take when mitigating the effects of severe weather on coastal areas in the province. Last week, an ECC official (speaking on background) told The Journal that, as the impacts of climate change are more commonly and broadly felt, more “multifaceted approaches will be required from various provincial departments, municipalities, and private citizens working together.”

While this mix of provincial and municipal infrastructure could make collaborative efforts challenging, MODG Chief Administrative Officer Barry Carroll said the municipality may be in better shape than others simply because, “We already made changes to our municipal plan [that] the province is suggesting. We rolled some of those into our [own] regulations.”

One key, he said, is accurate information. “One of the biggest issues for all our coastal communities is that what exists is not helpful for residents who will be dealing with the issues.”

Earlier this month, the ECC introduced a new mapping tool that provides up-to-date flood-risk analysis across Nova Scotia (nsgi.novascotia.ca). Among other things, it reveals that almost the entire North Shore of Chedabucto Bay – from Marshall Point to Ragged Head and beyond to Mulgrave – is susceptible to a three-metre flood risk above current sea levels by 2100.

That may not be encouraging to Leonard and his neighbours, but as for the map, he said, “Under the circumstances, I think it’s a huge step in the right direction.”