Situated on New Brunswick’s Northumberland Strait, Port Elgin is particularly vulnerable to the effects of the climate crisis. Coastal erosion and flooding have devastated the rural community. Storm surges and snowstorms have caused hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of damage, and power outages are no longer a rare occurrence.
As the climate crisis continues to impact environmental, economic, and social resources in the province’s southeastern region, community members and partners agree: plans must be developed, and action taken, to reduce their vulnerability to these changes.
EOS Eco-Energy Inc., is a local non-profit group working on climate change adaptation measures in the region. According to the EOS website, “much of the region is low lying, including areas that are below sea level. Some of the region’s infrastructure, businesses, homes, and community assets are also located behind an aging system of dykes that were built originally to protect agricultural fields.”
NGO partners NatureNB, the Village of Port Elgin, and EOS received the green light to move forward with Port Elgin’s climate change adaptation plan. That green light was an award from the Environmental Trust Fund (ETF) for a collaborative project, “Increasing Resiliency in Coastal Communities with Natural Infrastructure and Community Capacity Building.” The project is an expansion of an adaptation plan endorsed by the Village Council in 2016.
Adam Cheeseman, NatureNB’s Sackville-based Program Coordinator, said that in 2016 his organization worked with planners and other NGOs to find “the ways we can work with nature to adapt our communities to climate change. How can we develop, from the perspective of climate change adaptation?”
“We develop tools, educate, and support other groups” Cheeseman said, “to help planners and decision-makers think about environmental restoration not as something solely beneficial for wildlife and habitats, but for people and communities, too.” Revegetating shorelines, restoring wetlands, and preserving old-growth forest can provide unmatched ecological benefits to the province’s coastal communities by enhancing biodiversity and the area’s ability to adapt to unknown environmental futures.
Since 2016, NatureNB has “shifted gears” to focus on action-oriented projects in Port Elgin: to protect an eroding trail near the community’s sewage lagoon, and to educate residents and community groups about how they can work with nature to decrease erosion along the shores of the Northumberland Strait and Gaspereau River.
Cheeseman stressed that collaboration is imperative for the success of the Port Elgin resiliency project and all work that addresses concerns of the climate crisis. “We’re trying to position ourselves as facilitators and collaborators. We want to support communities and other non-profits—to elevate their programs and build expertise to better prepare these areas for the effects of climate change.”
While the ETF award has granted Port Elgin and its partners the means to implement their collaborative projects, progress has been slow. Since the award announcement this spring, the groups have been working to obtain the permits necessary to begin their shoreline efforts. Village representatives and project partners met in early July to talk about next steps.
NatureNB and EOS are working together to plan erosion prevention events in the area, including a Port Elgin planting day. During the one- or two-day event, residents and community groups will together plant native tree and shrub species along the shoreline, vegetation that will reduce the impacts of flooding and reduce coastal erosion. Additionally, information workshops for private landowners are being organized to provide them with knowledge about which trees and shrubs to plant to best protect their land against coastal erosion.
Lauren R. Korn is a research assistant for the RAVEN project Summer Institute and an M.A. student of Creative Writing at the University of New Brunswick.