The waters in Halifax Harbour are indeed rising, but don’t start building your ark just yet.
A team of experts charged with studying sea-level rise in the harbour gave a detailed presentation to regional council yesterday, explaining that the current generation won’t see a significant difference in water levels — but their children certainly will.
“We’re looking at 73-centimetre apparent sea-level rise at the dock between 2000 and 2100,” said Donald Forbes, a research scientist with the Bedford Institute of Oceanography. “This is probably an underestimate.”
If levels do rise as much as predicted, said Forbes, a severe storm like hurricane Juan striking the city at high tide in 2100 could flood much of the naval dockyards, historic properties and Lower Water Street, causing extensive damage.
Roger Wells, HRM’s supervisor of regional and community planning, said there’s no need for panic, but the municipality does need to be proactive.
“Let’s be aware that this is going to happen, and start to plan for it,” he told council. “The costs of doing something now are going to be much less than if we wait and adapt after the fact … This isn’t rocket science.”
The research team has already presented its findings to several developers, naval commanders and other stakeholders, said Wells, and they are using the information to inform how — and where — they build on the waterfront.
Council was told that the municipality will also need to be “very careful” about the kinds of development it allows near the water’s edge, and may eventually need to approve the construction of dikes and sea walls.
Coun. Jennifer Watts suggested Halifax should also be taking cues from other coastal communities around the globe.
“This type of scenario can be very bleak, and very scary,” she said. “We need to look at how other people around the world are dealing with this. And this is another call to put real effort into being as sustainable as we can.”