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Tantramar Mayor Andrew Black (left) and Amherst Mayor David Kogon appear before a senate committee on Oct. 18, 2023. Image: Senate video capture

Maritime mayors discuss Chignecto Isthmus at Senate committee

By Brad Perry Oct 19, 2023 | 11:30 AM

Two Maritime mayors have testified before a Senate committee studying climate change impacts on critical infrastructure.

David Kogon of Amherst, N.S., and Andrew Black of Tantramar, N.B., spoke Wednesday about the importance of the Chignecto Isthmus.

The narrow piece of land connecting New Brunswick and Nova Scotia is the only road and rail connection between the two provinces.

A network of dykes and aboiteaux originally installed in the late 1600s currently protects communities, infrastructure, private lands and natural resources.

But rising sea levels and frequent severe weather events threaten the stretch of land unless improvements are made.

Kogon said a failure of the dykes and aboiteaux would not only be catastrophic for his community but would have a major impact on national trade.

“The Chignecto Isthmus is the main entry point for goods from Europe to reach the rest of Canada and the United States, having been shipped through the Port of Halifax,” said Kogon.

“A flood to the transportation corridor crossing the Isthmus would completely stop this flow of goods.”

With sea levels continuing to rise, Kogon said it will take “less of a storm” for water to reach the top of the dykes.

The mayors said they worry it is only a matter of time before the dykes are breached and the Isthmus is inundated by water from a severe storm.

“The areas of land protected by the dykes are below sea level. If this area were to flood, the water would not proceed. It would be permanent with major consequences,” said Kogon.

“We are all aware now, after floods of the past and a quickly changing climate, that it is not a matter of if but a matter of when the Isthmus will be underwater,” added Black. “We feel like we are on borrowed time.”

Proposed fixes include raising existing dikes, building new ones, or raising the dikes and installing steel walls at select locations.

However, the repairs will not come cheap. The latest estimate from July said it could cost as much as $650 million.

Ottawa has said it would pay for half of the work, but the premiers of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia said the feds should foot the entire bill.

In September, New Brunswick Senator Jim Quinn introduced a bill that would bring the Isthmus under sole federal jurisdiction.

The bill, which has yet to be debated before the Senate, would see the Chignecto Isthmus declared “for the general advantage of Canada.”