Project will help identify community vulnerabilities, possible adaptation strategies to severe flooding event

Tribune-Post Staff
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SACKVILLE, N.B. – Research conducted over the past couple of years has clearly shown that Tantramar is in a precarious position should a severe flood hit the region.

With sea levels on the rise, climate change creating more extreme weather events, and an inadequate dyke system holding back the tides, it is no longer a question of if, but when, the area will be impacted.

So the real question now becomes, what are we going to do about it?

Researchers at Mount Allison University’s Geospatial Modelling Lab (GML) are hoping to help with that next step.

David Lieske, assistant professor with the geography and environment department and one of those researchers, is in the midst of developing a web-based program that will help communities see how they will be affected by climate change and identify their most vulnerable areas, both economically and socially.

Lieske said this latest project is an extension of the Tantramar Community Climate Change Adaptation project, in which the GML and the local planning commission worked together on creating flood scenarios for the region using GIS software. This was an effort to raise more public awareness about the threat of coastal flooding in the area by helping members of the public visualize the real impacts, using 3-D images.

Lieske said thanks to this research over the past three years, a lot of high-quality data has been collected, providing local communities with the numbers and information they need to connect with real-life scenarios. The public and municipal officials now have a better understanding of the economic implications of a flood event, and also realize the dykes are insufficient to handle such a situation.

“People started to see the implications,” said Lieske, who was one of several presenters at a climate change collaborative workshop in Sackville on Jan. 23.

Lieske said it was important to go through that process, in order to “change people’s thinking . . . and hopefully lower their personal risk.”

The Tantramar Community Adaptation Viewer Project is the next phase in that process, which will be to identify possible adaptation strategies, assess their potential effectiveness, and consider the trade-offs of cost to benefit. This project will produce software tools that can be used to explore and visualize the risk and potential impact of coastal flooding and help guide the development of a carefully-considered adaptation plan.

He said the software will not only be able to analyze issues like the state of the dykes and the impacts of flooding on public infrastructure, but also take into account the community’s social vulnerabilities (based on Stats Can data).

“Not everyone in the community is as resilient as everyone else,” said Lieske. “Not everybody has the ability to just pick up and move.”

He said assessing and reducing community vulnerability is a complex, multi-faceted issue. So using this software can help planners and civic leaders make decisions about which areas in their communities are most in need of intervention.

“The results will lead to locally-specific, on-the-ground adaptation strategies,” he said.

Researchers, town officials, government service agencies, non-profit organizations and planners have all been involved in the focus group sessions for this project and will get together again later this month for a plenary session to set priorities and suggest possible adaptation measures.

 

Organizations: Geospatial Modelling Lab, Mount Allison University

Geographic location: SACKVILLE, Tantramar Community

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