A Community-based Approach to Adaptation Planning in the Village of Port Elgin

The Port Elgin, New Brunswick adaptation plan, prepared by EOS Eco-Energy and endorsed by the Port Elgin Council on February 8th, 2016, outlines a community-centred approach to climate adaptation planning by a small coastal village. The plan describes local climate change impacts, flood scenarios, a summary of their collaborative risk and vulnerability assessments process, as well as the prioritization of vulnerabilities and adaptation actions designed to build community resilience.

The Village of Port Elgin is located at the mouth of Gaspereaux River along the Northumberland Strait and has an economy, cultural and natural heritage closely tied to their maritime surroundings. Port Elgin has been identified as one of the most vulnerable regions in the province to climate change-driven sea level rise, coastal flooding and erosion. Several intense storms and storm surges have also impacted the community in recent years. Most notably, in 2010 a major storm surge hit the village, causing extensive damage estimated at $700,000. A powerful snowstorm in the winter of 2015 also caused major residential power outages across the community.

Prior to developing the adaptation plan, Port Elgin had taken a series of actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change including developing an emergency measures plan, a sustainability plan, and is in the process of completing the Partners for Climate Protection (PCP) program. The next step was to formalize the community’s various adaptation actions into a community-based climate change adaptation plan. EOS Eco-Energy, a local non-profit, coordinated the planning process and obtained funding from the Province of New Brunswick Environmental Trust Fund.

Understanding and Assessing Impacts

Port Elgin is vulnerable to several climate change hazards and impacts including sea level rise, changing precipitation patterns, more frequent and severe storms, coastal erosion and major storm surges. Between 2010 and 2015, Port Elgin conducted six collaborative community-based adaptation planning sessions to assess these local climate change impacts, risks and vulnerabilities. The assessments were led by a planning committee which included representatives from EOS Eco-Energy, the Southeast Regional Service Commission, the Village’s Emergency Measures Organization (EMO), a village councillor and the members of the Port Elgin community. Subject matter experts were also engaged to provide a wide range of locally relevant impact and scenario data to aid committee members with the planning process. Including:

  • Environment Canada presented current climate science including predictions for temperature, sea level rise and severe weather events.
  • EOS Eco-Energy and Tantramar Climate Change Adaptation Collaborative presented the current state of the dykes, flood scenarios and emergency preparedness
  • Mount Allison University presented flood scenarios based on projections of sea level rise and storm events – e.g., a current 1:25 storm (as was experienced in 2010) and a 1:100 storm in the year 2100.
  • Tantramar Planning District Commission presented the results from their 2011 vulnerability assessment
  • The Insurance Bureau of Canada and New Brunswick Department of Environment presented policies and regulations related to coastline damage that would also support the planning process.
  • The Port Elgin sustainability plan (Picture Port Elgin, 2011) was also used to derive further vulnerabilities for the integrated vulnerability assessment for the village.

Throughout the planning sessions committee members Committee members used the provided data and tools to identify, map and record vulnerable community assets and economic impacts (e.g., damage and loss of services at lifts stations, nursing homes, schools, fire department, bridges, trails, wharf, downtown business district), natural assets (e.g., damage to coastlines, degraded water quality) and social impacts (e.g., risks to vulnerable populations, damage to cultural heritage sites, health effects). General public input and feedback were also encouraged and collected via workshop participation, two public engagement sessions as well as through social media, phone calls and information booths at public events.

Identifying Actions

The combined results and analysis from the community-based planning sessions, public input and the Port Elgin sustainability plan formed the basis for prioritizing community vulnerabilities and developing adaptation options for the Port Elgin adaptation plan. The committee worked with researchers from the Atlantic Canada Adaptation Solutions Association (ACASA) to use their decision tree tool to identify and rank different land use and engineering adaptation options. During each of the six planning sessions, participants also provided input on potential adaptation options related to the focus area of the planning session.

The planning committee developed nine priority areas for the community-based climate change adaptation plan that address the identified vulnerabilities through a variety of adaptation actions. The priority areas cut across multiple municipal services, community and natural assets and responses to different climate change hazards.

Priority Areas:

  1. Sewage Lagoon Contamination – flood contamination prevention of the lagoon and river
  2. Downtown Business Area Flooding – build flood resilience of downtown area and businesses
  3. Fire Station Accessibility – ensure accessibility of the fire station during emergency response measures
  4. River Erosion – stabilize riverbanks through grey and green infrastructure
  5. Magee House Flooding – ensure heath and safety of senior residents living in this flood and storm surge prone area
  6. Station Street Flooding – zoning regulations for new buildings, planned relocations
  7. Winter Storm Resilience – build community resilience during winter storms, enhanced emergency preparedness
  8. Freshwater Flooding – enhanced grey and green infrastructure to limit freshwater flooding
  9. Public Education – build adaptive and resilient community members through awareness raising


Each of the priority areas addressed in the adaptation plan have specific goals, activities to meet the goals, identified actors responsible, identified required resources, timelines and success indicators. Port Elgin council and staff are responsible for implementing the adaptation plan and meeting the specific goals within the targeted timelines of the plan. The key success indicators include no further lagoon breaches and reduced river contamination.

Detailed Action Implementation: Sewage lagoon
To prevent contamination from the sewage lagoon entering the Gaspereau River and Baie Vaerte and to increase public health and safety, the committee has identified several proactive adaptation actions including stabilizing erosion around the riverbanks, building up the berm and relocating the lagoon to a higher elevation and outside of the flood prone area. To complete the actions the committee has reached out for assistance from engineering consultants, living shoreline experts, and others.

Key Activities:

  • Enhance green infrastructure to stabilize land near the lagoon (timeline: by 2021) – Port Elgin partnered with Nature New Brunswick, EOS Eco-Energy and the Shediac Bay Watershed Association to plant trees along the Gaspereau River on the trail by the sewage lagoon during fall 2019 to try to slow down erosion, but it was too late and more erosion had occurred.
  • Conduct an engineering analysis of the lagoon (Timeline: 2017)- The village has secured the pro bono services a local engineer to conduct the analysis.
  • Build up the berm – Increase the height of the berm by 1 meter and further stabilize the riverbanks along the lagoon.
  • Relocating the lagoon (Timeline: by 2026)– The current location of the lagoon is in a flood-prone area. The committee intends to find and relocate the lagoon to a suitable location at a higher elevation, but the cost is estimated to be high and funding or partnerships with other levels of government will be crucial.

Outcomes and Monitoring Progress

Progress will be monitored regularly and communicated to the public through a variety of means, including the local newspaper, community meetings, and social media. A climate change adaptation implementation committee was created to maintain progress during the implementation phase. The committee meets once a year to monitor progress, take steps to ensure continued progress on action implementation, and report to Port Elgin Village Council. The implementation committee includes: Port Elgin village staff, the EMO coordinator, a Southeast Regional Service Commission representative, EOS Eco-Energy staff and a community member.

Outcomes and Monitoring Progress: Sewage Lagoon (Based on November, 2020 update report)

Enhance green infrastructure to stabilize land near the lagoon – While the village was able to implement their green infrastructure plans, erosion along the banks has continued and the village is exploring options for hard infrastructure including armor rocks.

Conduct an engineering analysis of the lagoon – As of the November 2020 update report, the analysis has yet to conclude. The village is in communication with the engineer.

Build up the berm – As of the November 2020 update report, the committee has yet to commence work on the berm as it is dependent on the engineering analysis.

Relocating the lagoon – The committee has yet to implement the research and planned relocation of the sewage lagoon as it is dependent on the engineering analysis and funding. At the time of the November 2020 update report, the village had yet to secure federal or provincial funding required to implement the project.

Next Steps

The Village of Port Elgin is undergoing a provincially-lead amalgamation process with surrounding rural areas. This will likely require a new adaptation plan, encompassing the new and much larger municipal boundary.