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Halifax to map out Sackville floodplains to ease climate change impact

Part one of Sackville Rivers floodplain study to cost around $70,000.

A pedestrian crosses a bridge in Bedford over the Sackville River earlier this year

Jeff Harper/ Metro

A pedestrian crosses a bridge in Bedford over the Sackville River earlier this year

A new study looking at the potential effects of flooding along two rivers in the Sackville area could mean future rule changes for planning in the area.

The city recently approved spending $70, 853.47 to hire an engineering consultant to complete the first phase of a two-part study that will create new floodplain maps for both the Sackville and Little Sackville rivers.

A floodplain is defined as a low-lying area adjacent to a river, which is mapped to determine what lands are most prone to flooding in a 20-year and 100-year rainfall event.

“We ... are keenly aware that the process of climate change is impacting the municipality,” Cameron Deacoff of HRM Energy & Environment said Tuesday.

Besides examining the effects of a changing climate, he explained updated flood mapping is needed, since current data on the rivers are based on a 1988 survey and follow-up study done in 1998. 

With nearly two-decades old data and the availability of today’s more accurate mapping technologies, Deacoff said it proves “more appropriate and effective” to complete a new floodplain map of the entire watershed.

That is especially true for residents and businesses located at the lower reaches of the Sackville River along Union Street, which have encountered flooding regularly over the past several years, according to Walter Regan, president of the Sackville Rivers Association.

The new study will examine the length of both river systems to its headwaters in East Hants, which cross the communities of Beaverbank, Bedford, Lucasville, Hammonds Plains, Mount Uniacke, as well as Upper, Lower and Middle Sackville.

“This will be the first time, that I’m aware of, that a complete river will be fully floodplained for the protection of the environment, the rivers and its citizens,” Regan said Tuesday.

If the new maps show the lands prone to flooding have extended beyond their current boundaries, Deacoff said that “would potentially mean changes to what people are authorized to do in terms of buildings or other uses of their property.”

However, he emphasized any changes to planning rules would require significant public consultation and approval by community, if not Halifax Regional Municipality’s city council.

Deacoff said the first part of the study is to be completed by October, with the second part expected to take another six months or so. 

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