New info may change Sackville’s flood-risk maps

Town planner Lori Bickford

Town planner Lori Bickford says new information should be available within the next few months to help bring Sackville’s flood-risk maps up to date.

During Monday’s town council meeting, Bickford said staff at the Southeast Regional Service Commission are analyzing LiDAR laser imaging data from 2017.

“This will be used…to update future floodplain scenarios, mapping or to even just provide more detailed and newer information than what our current mapping is based on,” Bickford told councillors.

Sackville’s current map was adopted in 2013 and Bickford suggested she’d be surprised if the new information didn’t show any changes to underlying conditions.

She said scenarios based on the new data will be presented to council later this year and councillors can then decide whether to change the flood-risk map.

Ambulance station at risk?

Any changes to the flood map could have implications for zoning bylaws affecting development in areas such as Exit 506 where a Nova Scotia company is building a new Ambulance New Brunswick (ANB) station on Robson Avenue.

In a letter last month, environmental consultant Sabine Dietz urged town council to reverse its decision to rezone the area so that the ambulance station could proceed.

Ambulance bldg. under construction on Robson Ave.

“The new location of the Ambulance building is not only ill-considered, but it potentially puts lives at risk,” Dietz writes.

“While I agree that the old location was highly problematic, placing an EMO building, an essential emergency service, within a known [flood] risk zone at this day and age, causes significant liability for our Town and residents.”

Dietz, who first raised the issue when she was running for a seat on council in November, notes that sea level rise and storm surges could flood all access roads in the 506 area including Robson Avenue.

“We cannot rely on the current dykes to protect us from increasingly unpredictable events, and certainly not from storm surges,” her letter adds. “The dykes are already being overtopped during high tide events.”

Dietz writes that any solution to fixing the dykes is years away.

“We cannot put our heads in the sand and expect for those dykes to magically be repaired tomorrow,” she writes.

To read Dietz’s letter, click here.

Mayor says no

Mayor John Higham

In his reply to Dietz’s letter, Mayor Higham writes that town council approved rezoning the land to allow construction of the new ambulance station after a public hearing where concerns about potential flooding were raised.

“With the rezoning process complete and the new facility under construction, reversing the decision to locate the facility from the present position is no longer an option.”

Higham’s letter also says that the location of the building was pre-determined by ANB which is responsible for managing its own risk.

“As a municipality, we must manage risk as best we can, given that we are open to liability in a variety of service areas,” Higham writes.

He adds that if a major, one-in-one hundred year storm were to be forecast, the town would have to plan where to locate its assets.

“Similarly, I suspect Ambulance NB will mobilize their resources to be able to continue to deliver services to communities,” he writes.

To read Mayor Higham’s letter, click here.

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9 Responses to New info may change Sackville’s flood-risk maps

  1. Rima Azar says:

    Our Mayor’s arguments make sense, even if the area is at risk. It is hard to imagine that the GNB’s Department of Health will sue the Town of Sackville :).

    Plus, it seems a bit too much to speak in the name of the community (as per the underlined sentence in Dr. Dietz’ letter), even without winning the municipal elections. This being said, thank you for the very well written letter and for the security concerns.

  2. Percy Best says:

    During the Saxby Gale (hurricane) of 1869 saltwater overflowed the hand built dykes that were not much more than bumps on the marsh. Since then there has been no major saltwater dyke breaches that I am aware of and for the last one hundred and fifty years the dykes have been built higher and higher. And yes, the water is nearing the top of what is there now when the wind is ripping from out of the southwest and the tide is in full but the newly initiated $700,000 study is ongoing and we will soon know what steps will be taken to deal with the threat in a proper manner.

    So, for now, instead of being such alarmists, one must wait to see the results of this study and hear what the Feds will do to pacify us all. They do have a massive amount of railway and TCH structure to protect too which I would imagine concerns them greatly.

    Jeeze, as far as the ambulances being out at Exit 506, I would think they will have four or five minutes before they are totally inundated with chocolate salt water sometime during the next hundred years, to enable them to move the units towards the center of town. If not, It is my understanding that NB Ambulance may indeed have more ambulances than only these two. Who knows, they may even have one in Moncton that they can spare us in an emergency and out on Cattail Ridge they can leave one or two in the new building to look after the needs of all the citizens on Spectacle Island.

    Have these alarmists never heard of the Netherlands or Google searched how they deal with living in a below sea level zone. Going over the top by fretful worrying can ruin the economic viability of our quaint town. Oh BTW, someone better warn Fort Folly FN as they may not realize that all of their dreams of developing those seven lots out at Coles Island, on their proposed new reserve, could indeed be swept away.

    • ADB says:

      “I have never been in a car accident therefore I do not need to wear a seatbelt.’

      Just because it has not flooded (as far as you know) in the last 150 years does not mean it will not happen. I recommend you wear a seatbelt no matter what your past experience and it’s probably advisable not to build critical emergency response infrastructure on an island.

      Perhaps you should Google the Netherlands and research the incredible amount of resources they invest in flood mitigation and their detailed rules around where infrastructure can be located. Drive Safe.

      • Percy Best says:

        You are indeed right ADB but once we see what the Feds are going to do then some of the steps, or perhaps all, we take here in Sackville may indeed be wasted. The ‘A’ proposal is to stretch a barrage/gate system from the Westcock Marsh dyke system over to the Fort Beausejour Dyke system. I was shown these plans about four years ago by Chief Hydrological Engineer, Kevin Bekkers, at the NS Department of Agriculture at Bible Hill, NS. The Feds have now said they will be deleting some of the existing dyke systems and this may indeed be the option that they go with. If that happens, then all the dykes surrounding our town become redundant and aboiteau flap gates will be removed. The Tantramar River Gate system by the TCH will also, of course, be redundant. Any fresh water due to rainfall that enters Sackville will have an unimpeded, and uninterrupted (by aboiteau gates) flow to the fresh water holding pond that the Tantramar river will become.

      • Louis says:

        Percy Best is right.

        I’ll point out that flood insurance is available for not that much money in Sackville. Surely the insurance companies don’t think that their insured properties are going to be washed away en masse…

        This is just the local version of wider alarmism.

    • Rima Azar says:

      Four or five minutes should be enough time to move ambulances, I think too Percy. If not, perhaps NB Ambulance can count on an assistance from NS, if ever needed? NS’ Emergency Health Services has a Life Flight helicopter (

      I have seen Beirut airport move its airplanes to protect them from sudden air shelling in a VERY fast time. My family and I had to run once to an airplane that took us to another European destination (to which we did not have a visa entry!). It was like a movie scene that is still quite vivid in my middle-aged brain.

  3. G says:

    With the way this small town likes to spend money, you should just build an umbrella over the town.

  4. Rima Azar says:

    Louis, good point about the insurance companies!

    You know? I find it fascinating when alarmism about any important issue is pushed to extreme levels. I say this because it contrasts so much with the high risk of wars (with an s) in the Middle East (e.g. Lebanon with its dangerous neighbourhood, regional axes, internal forces, external interferences, etc.) and people’s attitude there. The risk they face every day is realistically higher, much more imminent, and with potentially more tragic consequences than flooding occuring on Exit 506 in Sackville sometime soon. Yet no alarmism there like here :).

  5. Percy Best says:

    The Ambulance building itself is located well above any flood water level and is probably a much higher elevation in relation to sea level than the home of the author of the letter to the Mayor. The structure is being built by, and is owned totally by private enterprise, Parsons Investments, and is being leased to Ambulance NB. So our Government and Ambulance NB have basically no funds tied up in it except for future lease payments. There is of course no flood threat to the building itself and the several routes out involve different water catchment areas.

    If a breach of our modern dyke system were to ever occur, and that would have to be the result of a massive hurricane that centered it’s path between Saint John and the Miramichi area, (like the Saxby Gale path), in order for it’s stronger east side counter clockwise winds to have enough power to push and raise the Bay of Fundy waters over our existing dykes, then we would have plenty of notification time. They did NOT have this chance for any notification or preparation in 1869. They also did NOT have a rail line then which today acts as a secondary dyke barrier along the majority of the span between Sackville and Aulac. What they did have then was a low, hand built, dyke system that reached all the way to Midgic that saw the Tantramar River push it’s elevated waters actually up into Cookville. The Aulac River was a large contributor to the flooding as well. It’s flow was unbridled as well back in 1869. .

    If a breach by hurricane at the high tide did take place today then flooding would of course go all the way up to Midgic and the width of the Tantramar Marshes,which includes the ‘holding pond’ that the mostly empty freshwater section of the Tantramar River now provides. There is a MASSIVE amount of storage capability for any floodwaters before they actually totally inundate our Trans Canada Highway System. There would temporarily be some flow over portions of it of course. The active dyke system now all southwest of the TCH today is extremely short compared to what was in place back then, and — it will get shorter once the Federal Government carries out the next stage of flood control.

    What the ‘alarmists’ don’t seem to take into account is the fact that the duration of the high tide and the peak of the hurricane combined at the same time would in all likelihood last only a few hours. I find the ‘alarmists’ concern quite ‘alarming’. Good fodder for the applicable consultants though.

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