4.8 The Bay of Fundy and the tides of climate change

3 Community engagement in collaborative flood-mapping in the Tantramar area

3.1 The Tantramar marshes and Sackville

The Tantramar marshes and the town of Sackville are located towards the northeastern end of the Bay of Fundy in the Cumberland basin at the mouth of the Tantramar river. Due to its geographical location, the area experiences very high tides (figure 19). The Tantramar marshes are one the most important on the Atlantic coast, with over 20 000 ha. They harbour an abundant wildlife, with a number of resident and migratory bird-species. Those may also be at the origin of the name of the marsh, since in French Acadian, tintamarre means noise, referring to the bird’s calls, chirps and shrieks. The area is designated as a National Wildlife Area and harbours two bird sanctuaries (figure 20).

The dam on the Tantramar River at high tide and low tide.

Figure 19. The dam on the Tantramar River at high tide and low tide.

Source: photo S. Weissenberger, 2016

Left: Great black-backed gull (Larus marinus) in flight over the marsh, right great blue heron (Ardea herodias) waiting for fish downstream from the dam on the Tantramar river.

Figure 20. Left: Great black-backed gull (Larus marinus) in flight over the marsh, right great blue heron (Ardea herodias) waiting for fish downstream from the dam on the Tantramar river.

Source: photos S. Weissenberger, 2016

The foundation of the Acadian village of Beaubassin dates to 1671 by residents of Port-Royal. The Acadians proceeded to erect a network of dykes and sluices (aboiteau) in order to gain fertile agricultural land from the marshes. In 1748, the Acadian population counted about 3,000 souls in a dozen of settlements around the marsh, with a seaport in Westcock. An “Old French Road” is depicted in contemporary maps. In 1755, after the Battle of Fort Beauséjour, the Acadians were deported from the area, and replaced a few years later by British settlers. In the mid-1800s, about 10,000 ha of agricultural land was under production, mainly for grains, roots and hay. Today, part of the marshland is used as pasture as well as for agriculture (figure 21).

A herd of cows in the Tantramar marsh.

Figure 21. A herd of cows in the Tantramar marsh.

Source: photo S. Weissenberger, 2016

Presently, dykes are maintained by ministry of agriculture, as well in Sackville in New Brunswick as in Amherst in Nova Scotia. Therefore, the conception and maintenance of the dykes is more geared towards agricultural purpose than for civil protection and other aspects of land use. However, the responsibility is in the process of being transferred to ministry of transport, which has great interest in flood protection and more important means. Due to the high tides, dykes are almost 9 m high (figure 22). There are still a number of aboiteaux, functioning on the same principle as the original Acadian devices, but with steel doors rather than wooden flaps (figure 23).

 

  • Images of floods in St. Andrews, New Brunswick.
    Figure 22. Impressions of dikes at the Tantramar marshes at high and low tides.

    Source: photos S. Weissenberger, 2016

  • Images of floods in St. Andrews, New Brunswick.
    Figure 22. Impressions of dikes at the Tantramar marshes at high and low tides.

    Source: photos S. Weissenberger, 2016

  • Images of floods in St. Andrews, New Brunswick.
    Figure 22. Impressions of dikes at the Tantramar marshes at high and low tides.

    Source: photos S. Weissenberger, 2016

  • Images of floods in St. Andrews, New Brunswick.
    Figure 22. Impressions of dikes at the Tantramar marshes at high and low tides.

    Source: photos S. Weissenberger, 2016

aboiteau, left at high tide on the landward side of the dam, left at low tide on the seaward side of the dam in the Tantramar river bed.

Figure 23. aboiteau, left at high tide on the landward side of the dam, left at low tide on the seaward side of the dam in the Tantramar river bed.

Source: photos S. Weissenberger, 2016

The area has always been important as a transportation hub. The Mi’kmaq First Nations travelled between the Bay of Fundy and the Straight of Northumberland through the Tantramar area, using a portage between Beaubassin and Westcock over the Memramcook and Petitcodiac rivers. The Acadians had roads and ferries, as well as a sea port in Westcock (figure 24). Nowadays, highway one as well as the train route of ViaRail’s Ocean, which link Nova Scotia to New Brunswick and the rest of Canada, pass through the marshes (figure 25).

The Jeffrey and “McKinnon maps of the Tantramar area in 1755 showing the “Old French Road” (dashed line in upper map) and a ferry across the lower Tantramar river.

Figure 24. The Jeffrey and “McKinnon maps of the Tantramar area in 1755 showing the “Old French Road” (dashed line in upper map) and a ferry across the lower Tantramar river.

Source: McKinnon (2007)

Ocean Limited, 1962, by Alex Colville, painting of the Ocean train passing through the Tantramar Marshes. The famous Canadian painter Alexis Colville was born in Toronto, but resided in Amherst, then Sackville, where he studied and taught at Mount Allison University.

Figure 25. Ocean Limited, 1962, by Alex Colville, painting of the Ocean train passing through the Tantramar Marshes. The famous Canadian painter Alexis Colville was born in Toronto, but resided in Amherst, then Sackville, where he studied and taught at Mount Allison University.

Source: AGO (http://www.gallery.ca/colville/en/22.htm)

The agricultural vocation changed over the course of the 19th century. From 1842 on, there was some shipbuilding on the Tantramar River. Mount Allison Wesleyan Academy, nowadays Mount Allison University, was founded in 1839. From the 1930s on, diverse trades such as leather goods factories, carriage factories and blacksmiths established themselves. The service industry and the hospital play an important role nowadays. In the area under consideration here, the main land uses are residential as well as agriculture and conservation (figure 26), with with financially important assets also concentrated in institutional, industrial and commercial zones.

Land uses in the Sackville area.

Figure 26. Land uses in the Sackville area.

Source: Lieske and Bornemann (2011)