Le Goulet's Climate Change Adaptation Plan

In 2004, Dr. Omer Chouinard and his team from the Université de Moncton assisted the village of Le Goulet in producing a comprehensive local plan to adapt to the impacts of climate change and rising sea levels. Le Goulet is a small fishing community with a population of 950 located on the Acadian Peninsula in northeast New Brunswick. The village is low-lying and relatively flat, two features that make it particularly vulnerable to the impacts of a changing climate and rising sea levels. Local residents have noticed an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather, including storm surges and flooding, and are worried about future impacts on their homes and livelihoods. Recent floods have contaminated drinking water supplies, caused septic tanks to overflow and flooded access roads, hampering emergency procedures. The development of the local adaptation plan included three phases: raising awareness; focus groups; and adaptation options. Two adaptation options were identified: A – the voluntary retreat of homes at risk; B – the construction of a 3.8 km sea wall. It was decided that relocating homes at risk from flooding (retreat) to a higher elevation is the most desirable and cost-effective means to reduce the multiple health and safety issues stemming from storm surge flooding. Rather than prohibiting all development projects in flood-prone areas of Le Goulet, the local planning commission took a more targeted approach. Using results from the discussion groups, the commission identified a zone where climate change impacts are considered a major risk that developers must consider in their plans. The zoning bylaw provides an opportunity to educate developers about the climate change related risks to people and infrastructure, and ensures that appropriate, but not prescriptive, measures are taken to accommodate those risks.

Understanding and Assessing Impacts

Local residents of Le Goulet have noticed an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather, including storm surges and flooding, and are worried about future impacts on their homes and livelihoods. For example, in the last 15 years, four major floods resulting from coastal storm surges have affected up to 30 homes in the village. These floods contaminated drinking water supplies (salt-water intrusion), caused septic tanks to overflow and flooded access roads, hampering emergency procedures. Contaminated drinking water and mould issues continue to be problems for many homes. Le Goulet is separated from the Gulf of Saint Lawrence by sand dunes and salt marshes, both of which act as important natural buffers from storm events. In 2010, Le Goulet participated in the Acadian Peninsula Project undertaken as part of the Acadian Peninsula-Atlantic Climate Adaptation Solutions Association (ACASA) project under the Atlantic Regional Adaptation Collaborative (ARAC) initiative. The purpose of the project was to develop planning and decision-support tools to help municipalities deal with issues of coastal flooding and erosion more effectively. Using a digital elevation model as the foundation (LiDar), coastline retreat projections, flood scenarios and analysis of the risk to infrastructure were conducted. Sea level rise and storm surge scenarios were developed by R.J. Daigle Enviro. Coastline retreat scenarios were developed and an analysis of risk to infrastructure was conducted by a team from the Université de Moncton. The tools that were developed comprise a high-precision digital elevation model based on LiDAR data, sea-level rise and storm surge projections, coastline advance and retreat projections and a database of infrastructure at risk according to various coastline flooding and retreat scenarios. The tools were used to produce maps illustrating the areas at risk of flooding or erosion in the future.

Identifying Actions

From 2004 through 2007, Dr. Omer Chouinard and his team from the Université de Moncton assisted the village in producing a comprehensive local plan to adapt to the impacts of climate change and rising sea levels. The development of the plan included three phases:

  1. Raising awareness by presenting aspects of climate change, storm surges and coastal erosion to local residents;
  2. Scheduling focus groups with local residents and leaders to arrive at adaptation options; and
  3. Creating adaptation options to address storm events.

A citizen-based working group helped the local planning commission identify a zone where climate change impacts are considered a major risk that developers must consider in their plans. In 2011 and in 2012, additional strategic planning exercises were completed to identify priorities and potential strategies. Among other recommendations, they suggested amending the Village of Le Goulet municipal plan to include zoning aimed at minimizing flood and erosion risks. The eastern and western residential areas, special care home and dunes on the Le Goulet coastline were identified as priority areas for the community. Dr. Mélanie Aubé, of the Coastal Zones Research Institute Inc. and Benjamin Kocyla of the Commission d’aménagement de la Péninsule acadienne, facilitated a citizen-based working group to examine and validate a series of tools used to produce maps illustrating the areas at risk of flooding or erosion in the future. This group made recommendations to the municipal council in regards to risk management and land-use planning. The group recommended that the sea level rise scenario for 2055, the 50-year return period storm surge scenario and the coastline retreat scenario for 2100 should be used for planning. The group further made the following recommendations: Two risk zones based on the scenarios identified should be added to the municipal plan; Flood and erosion risk information should be made available to emergency measures coordinators; The Emergency Measures Plan or information on measures to be taken in the event of an emergency should be made available to the public; The working group’s recommendations and information on the areas at risk of flooding and erosion should be made available to the public; and a standing advisory committee of citizens should be struck to work with the municipal council on climate change adaptation issues.

Implementation

To date, the Village of Le Goulet has completed the process leading to the development of its Climate Change Adaptation Plan. The final selection of actions in the plan was made following public consultation that took place in the fall of 2018. An implementation plan has been developed including details of when and how the actions will be carried out and the implementation plan will be updated as needed. The university-community partnership successfully initiated an important debate about the future of the community and spurred the following actions. First, in 2009 the Commission d’aménagement de la Péninsule acadienne modified the village’s zoning bylaw to prevent unsuitable development in flood-prone areas. Second, New Brunswick’s Department of Natural Resources agreed to produce a high-resolution digital elevation map of the coastline, information needed to inform all possible adaptation options. Data collection for the map took place in the summer of 2010.

Outcomes and Monitoring Progress

Many small communities lack the resources to develop and implement a comprehensive climate change adaptation plan. In Le Goulet, policy-makers were able to rely on nearby researchers from the University of Moncton to provide impartial impacts and adaptation information, to facilitate a discussion process and to draft a plan based on the outcomes from the discussions. This example demonstrates the importance of collaboration between local residents and climate change specialists when producing a climate change adaptation plan for a small community.

Next Steps

The evaluation and selection of adaptation strategies continues to be underway. This includes: evaluation of the dune restoration option as an adaptation strategy; monitoring of the beach sediment dynamics by Coastal Zones Research Institute Inc. since 2014; a cost-benefit analysis of adaptation strategies including sediment recharge and a dike; and a planning exercise for final selection of strategies. Led by Dr. Aubé from the Coastal Zones Research Institute Inc., the working group continues inthe community to begin implementing the recommen-dations and to start a community engagement process.


Understanding and Assessing Impacts

Local residents of Le Goulet have noticed an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather, including storm surges and flooding, and are worried about future impacts on their homes and livelihoods. For example, in the last 15 years, four major floods resulting from coastal storm surges have affected up to 30 homes in the village. These floods contaminated drinking water supplies (salt-water intrusion), caused septic tanks to overflow and flooded access roads, hampering emergency procedures. Contaminated drinking water and mould issues continue to be problems for many homes. Le Goulet is separated from the Gulf of Saint Lawrence by sand dunes and salt marshes, both of which act as important natural buffers from storm events. In 2010, Le Goulet participated in the Acadian Peninsula Project undertaken as part of the Acadian Peninsula-Atlantic Climate Adaptation Solutions Association (ACASA) project under the Atlantic Regional Adaptation Collaborative (ARAC) initiative. The purpose of the project was to develop planning and decision-support tools to help municipalities deal with issues of coastal flooding and erosion more effectively. Using a digital elevation model as the foundation (LiDar), coastline retreat projections, flood scenarios and analysis of the risk to infrastructure were conducted. Sea level rise and storm surge scenarios were developed by R.J. Daigle Enviro. Coastline retreat scenarios were developed and an analysis of risk to infrastructure was conducted by a team from the Université de Moncton. The tools that were developed comprise a high-precision digital elevation model based on LiDAR data, sea-level rise and storm surge projections, coastline advance and retreat projections and a database of infrastructure at risk according to various coastline flooding and retreat scenarios. The tools were used to produce maps illustrating the areas at risk of flooding or erosion in the future.

Identifying Actions

From 2004 through 2007, Dr. Omer Chouinard and his team from the Université de Moncton assisted the village in producing a comprehensive local plan to adapt to the impacts of climate change and rising sea levels. The development of the plan included three phases:

  1. Raising awareness by presenting aspects of climate change, storm surges and coastal erosion to local residents;
  2. Scheduling focus groups with local residents and leaders to arrive at adaptation options; and
  3. Creating adaptation options to address storm events.

A citizen-based working group helped the local planning commission identify a zone where climate change impacts are considered a major risk that developers must consider in their plans. In 2011 and in 2012, additional strategic planning exercises were completed to identify priorities and potential strategies. Among other recommendations, they suggested amending the Village of Le Goulet municipal plan to include zoning aimed at minimizing flood and erosion risks. The eastern and western residential areas, special care home and dunes on the Le Goulet coastline were identified as priority areas for the community. Dr. Mélanie Aubé, of the Coastal Zones Research Institute Inc. and Benjamin Kocyla of the Commission d’aménagement de la Péninsule acadienne, facilitated a citizen-based working group to examine and validate a series of tools used to produce maps illustrating the areas at risk of flooding or erosion in the future. This group made recommendations to the municipal council in regards to risk management and land-use planning. The group recommended that the sea level rise scenario for 2055, the 50-year return period storm surge scenario and the coastline retreat scenario for 2100 should be used for planning. The group further made the following recommendations: Two risk zones based on the scenarios identified should be added to the municipal plan; Flood and erosion risk information should be made available to emergency measures coordinators; The Emergency Measures Plan or information on measures to be taken in the event of an emergency should be made available to the public; The working group’s recommendations and information on the areas at risk of flooding and erosion should be made available to the public; and a standing advisory committee of citizens should be struck to work with the municipal council on climate change adaptation issues.

Implementation

To date, the Village of Le Goulet has completed the process leading to the development of its Climate Change Adaptation Plan. The final selection of actions in the plan was made following public consultation that took place in the fall of 2018. An implementation plan has been developed including details of when and how the actions will be carried out and the implementation plan will be updated as needed. The university-community partnership successfully initiated an important debate about the future of the community and spurred the following actions. First, in 2009 the Commission d’aménagement de la Péninsule acadienne modified the village’s zoning bylaw to prevent unsuitable development in flood-prone areas. Second, New Brunswick’s Department of Natural Resources agreed to produce a high-resolution digital elevation map of the coastline, information needed to inform all possible adaptation options. Data collection for the map took place in the summer of 2010.

Outcomes and Monitoring Progress

Many small communities lack the resources to develop and implement a comprehensive climate change adaptation plan. In Le Goulet, policy-makers were able to rely on nearby researchers from the University of Moncton to provide impartial impacts and adaptation information, to facilitate a discussion process and to draft a plan based on the outcomes from the discussions. This example demonstrates the importance of collaboration between local residents and climate change specialists when producing a climate change adaptation plan for a small community.

Next Steps

The evaluation and selection of adaptation strategies continues to be underway. This includes: evaluation of the dune restoration option as an adaptation strategy; monitoring of the beach sediment dynamics by Coastal Zones Research Institute Inc. since 2014; a cost-benefit analysis of adaptation strategies including sediment recharge and a dike; and a planning exercise for final selection of strategies. Led by Dr. Aubé from the Coastal Zones Research Institute Inc., the working group continues inthe community to begin implementing the recommen-dations and to start a community engagement process.

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