Sunday, September 26, 2021

St. Mary’s seeks public input for climate plan

  • August 25 2021
  • By Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative reporter    

ST. MARY’S – Rising sea levels, extreme storm surges and extensive flooding are just some of the ways global warming will affect St. Mary’s coastal communities in the years ahead, warns the municipality’s first Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP).

The plan – released for feedback last week on the municipality’s website and Facebook page – states that “the impacts of a rising sea will be substantial in St. Mary’s [which] boasts roughly 264 km of shoreline. Sea level rise concerns surrounding coastal erosion, flooding, damage to infrastructure, storm surge, and well-water contamination.”

What’s more, the plan says, the impacts of climate change on the local, tourism-based economy could be severe as the area “focuses heavily on historical sight-seeing … Beyond the obvious destruction of historical sites … the narrowing of beaches and threatening of roadways present a specific threat.”

To mitigate these dangers, the plan suggests several possible avenues – from “an education piece for residents” about the implications of sea level rise to actual land-use changes and building code adjustments “to allow for coastal setbacks, adjusted for the projected high-water mark.”

According to Kaytland Smith, the municipality’s climate change coordinator and a former district councillor, the plan is meant to be a guide for discussion, consultation and community coordination – not a prescription.

“[This] has been created with a goal of enhancing the climate resiliency of our communities by engaging and educating businesses and residents, identifying opportunities for sustainable economic development, and creating partnerships for a climate-forward municipality,” her invitation for feedback states.

In an email to The Journal, she adds that the plan – developed over the past several weeks – has been a “labour of love. Action items are designed as ideas, programs, and initiatives for council and staff’s consideration. An action item being included in the [plan] does not guarantee that it will be chosen to be acted upon or what the timeline would be if a particular item was chosen to be acted on.”

Indeed, said Chief Administrative Officer Marvin MacDonald, “Our CCAP is in the process of being updated and a number of recommendations will be included in the plan for [municipal] council to consider, but council will make the determination on what gets acted on and when.”

Still, both officials underscore the seriousness of the issue facing St. Mary’s, particularly as the Department of Environment and Climate Change seeks feedback from municipalities in the province most likely to be affected by its new Coastal Protection Act (Bill 106), a process that began on July 15 and is scheduled to wrap up by the end of September.

“These new regulations are currently under development and the municipality [St. Mary’s] should consider taking every opportunity to consult and offer feedback as the opportunity arises,” the CCAP states.

Smith said, “Council is in the process of gathering information, attending feedback seminars, and developing their submission surrounding the Coastal Protections Act.”

Added MacDonald: “I believe that the municipality should always engage in discussion on provincial legislation that relates to land-use planning as it is definitely a jurisdiction that the municipality does have responsibility over. In this case, where we are a coastal community the Coastal Protection Act does certainly have potential to impact on our Municipal Planning Strategy and Land Use Planning documents.”

Comments about St. Mary’s Climate Change Action Plan may be submitted via email, phone, or “an in-person event where I will be present to hear your thoughts,” Smith said. The CCAP can be found online through the homepage of the St. Mary’s website.