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The rising ocean

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Photo: Nova Scotia Tourism Agency

Photo: Nova Scotia Tourism Agency

Climate change is giving wake-up calls to cities around the world.

Halifax got one in 2003 from Hurricane Juan and New York got one in 2012 with Hurricane Sandy, so, how do coastal communities prepare to live 50 years from now and beyond?

Halifax’s Waterfront Development Corporation (WDC) thinks that far ahead while planning for the Salter Block and this summer got some ideas at a brainstorming session organized by the Ecology Action Centre. Experts say that by 2050 sea level will rise 58 centimetres and a worst-case scenario storm surge would be 3.79 metres, which would flood the entire block.

Andy Fillmore, the vice-president of planning and development for the WDC, said Halifax wants to follow the lead of Seattle and Rotterdam.

“We don’t want to abandon the edge,” Fillmore said of the land that is a temporary parking lot with a little green space. “This block is one of the most spectacular sites available for development on the Halifax waterfront, so getting it right is really important.”

Should WDC use an engineered approach to try to hold the water back, should it use natural methods to provide a buffer, or a combination of both? Most of the suggested plans preserved the green space with a beach park, while considering other options such as a museum of climate change, an outdoor entertainment venue, and a lighthouse that could become a tourist attraction. Any significant building would need to be constructed on a floating platform, a technique used in the Netherlands and elsewhere, so that it could rise as sea levels do.

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