In 2014, the Town of Shelburne developed a Municipal Climate Action Plan (MCCAP) to identify hazards and risks associated with projected changes in climate. As sea levels continue to rise, Nova Scotia will experience magnified high tides, increased storm surges, and increased coastal erosion rates. Flooding includes coastal flooding and inland flooding from hurricanes and winter storm events. Shelburne’s history of armoring, infilling, and introducing impermeable surfaces at the coast affected the natural ability of the land and shore to mitigate flooding and erosion. Removing vegetation and replacing it with parking lots and roadways has increased overland flow. The MCCAP identified flooding and erosion as a risk to public safety, systems, and property in Shelburne. The main streets along the shore are the primary access to the local hospital, fire service, and municipal wastewater treatment plant. Other critical infrastructures at risk are parking lots, historic and commercial buildings, and port facilities. The Ecology Action Centre estimated that water levels exceeding 3.4m would flood critical roads and impact many of the town’s historical landmarks.
In 2020, Coastal Action, in partnership with CB Wetlands and Environmental Specialists Inc. (CBWES Inc.), and the Town of Shelburne, installed a living shoreline along the waterfront to address erosion, storm surges, flooding, and changing land use. Shelburne’s natural coastline resilience has been impacted through sediment transport, infilling coastal habitats, shoreline hardening, wharves, and boat launches. While the town has historically relied on sea walls, stone armoring, and infilling to protect its waterfront, in recent years, the town has acknowledged that maintaining the infrastructure will become a burden on limited resources. In 2016, Shelburne used the Canadian Index of Multiple Deprivation and found that the town has the highest vulnerability in the region with critical infrastructure, such as buildings and roads, located within meters of the coast. Increasing precipitation and stronger storms will contribute to high tidal water levels, higher storm surges at the coast, and more overland flooding. The living shoreline was installed to absorb and slow overland flow while also protecting against wave erosion. The project was designed and implemented on a small section of the public shoreline on the town’s historic waterfront and has brought environmental benefits to the site including habitat and erosion control, aesthetic improvements, and potential cost reductions for slope protection. The case study illustrates a partnership between local government, an environmental non-governmental organization, and the private sector to demonstrate and learn from using a new approach to shoreline protection.