Source: Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) Monthly Sea Level Halifax Tide Gauge & Station 491 Inventory Data

Halifax Harbour Rising

On the night of Jan. 4, 2018 as 30 km/h winds swept the surface of the Halifax Harbour, Jamie Rouse and his son-in-law were standing on the Fisherman’s Cove boardwalk just outside of Rouse’s seafood restaurant, Boondocks, warily watching the rising waters.

“We looked at the security cameras and I saw that the waters were getting up and close, so we came down to see it,” recalled Rouse.

Earl Gosse, a veteran board member of the Fisherman’s Cove Development Association, would recall more than a year later that it had been a spring tide on the night of that January winter storm. At precisely the time the two Nova Scotia restaurateurs had been standing on the boardwalk, the water was almost two metres high.

The planks beneath their feet started to move.

“We got off of that pretty quickly and … just basically came inside and watched it rip apart,” said Rouse. “It wasn’t until the morning that we saw the extent of the damage.”

MEGHAN GROFF, HALIFAX TODAYA portion of the Fisherman’s Cove boardwalk extending along McCormacks Beach Provincial Park is blanketed with a cascade of rocks that were sent flying by the storm.  

What was left of Fisherman’s Cove’s picturesque boardwalk, the pride of the restored 19th-century fishing village that rests on an infilled peninsula at the mouth of Halifax Harbour, was torn in two. One half was “embedded beneath our deck,” recalled Rouse, and the other half, “ripped up and shoved into the inner side of the parking lot,” said Gosse, who had been among the stunned spectators the following morning.

“It got shoved all the way over almost to the road, and that was lifting up concrete,” said Gosse. “Big concrete blocks, you know, a base — and they were down in the ground, so it pulled them up.”

While Gosse could hardly believe what he was seeing, Rouse expected nothing less from the sea.

“There’s not many things that can stand Mother Nature, you know,” he said. “It’s amazing that the water was only probably about two or three feet deep, at that, and to be able to lift up the concrete and move it.”

In fact, climate scientists project that Halifax Harbour’s surface could swell more than a metre higher over the next 80 years. Much more than the Fisherman’s Cove boardwalk would be buckling beneath those higher waters.

Photo Credits:Before Climate Central Risk Zone Map, Google Earth After Climate Central Risk Zone Map, Google Earth

Not only would 1.5 more metres of water return Fisherman’s Cove’s artificial peninsula to the sea, but when future storms ride in violently atop those higher waters, an analysis by the Signal and Dalhousie’s GIS Centre found that more than 1,700 buildings along the length of the Halifax Harbour coastline could be inundated. These extreme water levels could affect properties assessed for taxes today at an amount approaching $2 billion.

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