GREAT NORTHERN PENINSULA, NL – Municipal leaders on the Great Northern Peninsula know they’re going to have to adapt to a new world as the realities of climate change set in.
Stronger winds, coastal erosion, rising tides and warming oceans are just some of the effects that will pose challenges to coastal communities.
Roddickton-Bide Arm Mayor Sheila Fitzgerald recently had the opportunity to discuss the matter at the Sustainable Communities Conference hosted by the Federation of Canadian Councils in Ottawa on Feb 6-8.
Climate change – and how best to prepare to mitigate its effects – was an important area of discussion for the municipalities at the conference.
Fitzgerald was glad to have the opportunity to deliver a speech at the event, making others aware of the challenges facing rural communities like hers.
She said it was important because climate change is a reality she believes towns must face.
“The effects of climate change are happening and they’re happening right here on the east coast,” Fitzgerald told the Northern Pen.
She felt the conference was an opportunity to learn from other municipalities and hear about the technological innovations available to mitigate climate change.
“Sometimes you’re exposed to different technologies that you didn’t even know existed,” she said.
Fitzgerald believes municipal councils need to lead the way and set an example for their communities on climate change.
She believes people must pay attention to rising ocean levels, shoreline erosion, the effects of wind, and quick thaws that can create excess water and cause cracks and potholes in pavement.
“If we’re replacing roofing or roads or decide to build a new shed somewhere or a fire station, we have to think about what it’s going to look like in 10 or 20 years from now,” she said.
Effects in Conche, St. Lunaire-Griquet
According to Conche Mayor Charlene McGrath, climate change is not a topic discussed much in their community.
But upon further consideration, she says it’s possible they’re seeing some of its effects already.
“This fall alone we have seen a tremendous amount of rain and very intense winds that several years ago were uncommon in our community,” she told the Northern Pen. “Both of these effects have also led to coastal erosion around our seashore.”
McGrath also acknowledges concerns about the fishery.
She says fishermen are noticing it appears to take longer for the water to cool, as temperatures remain relatively mild until at least the end of October.
As Conche still has a viable fishing industry, residents can’t help but worry how climate change will affect it in the years to come.
Particularly, warm water temperatures are not favourable to snow crab.
“Many fishermen already feel the stocks are declining but I don’t think anyone gives serious thought that the reason may be related to climate change,” said McGrath.
St. Lunaire-Griquet Mayor Dale Colbourne also believes some effects are already being seen.
Back in 2012, the area experienced a storm surge and a part of the town had to be evacuated.
And now she is noticing less ice and slob ice in the harbour in December. This is a concern, because when there are strong winds, the ice is no longer there to abate the tide.
“We’ve several times since that had issues where we thought our road was going to be washed out again,” she said. “We did put some armour stone around but it wasn’t sufficient.
“It didn’t quite take the road out, but it was close, and we can’t take that chance.”
The council has applied to the Green Municipal Fund to put additional armour stone around the beach for protection.
With all these issues in mind, Fitzgerald is stressing the need “to start developing a green conscience.”