The governments of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are promising to push for federal funding to help them raise dykes about 2 metres to 10.6 metres and improve aboiteau drainage to protect the Chignecto Isthmus transportation corridor — a project that would cost an estimated $190 to $300 million and take 10 years to complete.
“I know we’re committed to moving forward with this project and so is Nova Scotia and we’re going to work away at it as fast as we can,” Jill Green, New Brunswick’s minister of transportation and infrastructure (DTI) told reporters today after releasing a long-awaited study on how to protect the isthmus, the TransCanada Highway and the CN Rail line from the rising seas of the Bay of Fundy.
When asked about the urgency of the situation and whether the isthmus and the towns of Sackville and Amherst are in imminent danger from saltwater flooding, Green replied that she has no crystal ball.
“This is a massive project, this is not going to happen overnight,” she said, adding that it will take about five years to negotiate funding arrangements among the three levels of government, to complete environmental assessments and to conduct further engineering work.
She said that means construction would not begin for about five years.
Kim Masland, Nova Scotia’s minister of public works said that aside from a catastrophic storm like the Saxby Gale of 1869, the current 7.5 to 8.5 metre dykes should give adequate protection, but she also emphasized that both provinces are committed to the project.
“We recognize the importance of implementing this project on an expedited basis and that’s how we are going to move forward,” she added.
The Chignecto study recommends three main ways of raising the dykes to 10.6 metres.
Option A would raise the existing dykes and require construction of a large water control structure at the mouth of the Tantramar River:
Option B would build new dykes along the existing alignment of the present ones.
The third, most expensive option, would raise existing dykes along their present alignment and install approximately 800 metres of Steel Sheet Pile (SSP) walls at selected locations. Water level control structures would be required downstream of existing bridges.
Wood Environment & Infrastructure Solutions, the main consulting firm that conducted the study, considered several other options, but ranked them much lower than Options A, B, and C.
The additional options included raising one or both lanes of the TransCanada Highway to 10.6 metres; building a new rail line to 10.6 metres next to the existing one; moving both the highway and rail line to new locations and building a bridge that would include both highway and rail line.
“This is a very significant project with a very significant cost,” Kim Masland said, echoing comments made by her New Brunswick counterpart, Jill Green.
Both emphasized the need for federal funding to help the two provinces protect transportation links such as the TransCanada Highway and CN rail as well as electrical transmission lines and fibre-optic cables.
They said that raising the dykes would also protect the towns of Sackville and Amherst from saltwater flooding while safeguarding the $35 billion in annual trade and other economic benefits that depend on keeping the Chignecto Isthmus open.
“This is much bigger than our two little provinces,” Green said. “This is a federal project, this is a strategic corridor for Canada.”
To read more about the Chignecto study, click here.