Erosion threatening Lennox Island First Nations: university study
Published Saturday, November 25, 2017 6:46PM AST
A university study suggests a small First Nations community in Prince Edward Island may be forced to move within this decade as threats of shoreline erosion loom.
The first Mi’kmaq people came to Lennox Island 12,000 years ago, now the study submits every rolling storm and breaking wave is claiming the community’s land bit by bit.
Coastal erosion has long since been a concern in P.E.I., and members of the small community say they’re keenly aware that storm surges, rising sea levels and a lack of hard bedrock are threatening their land.
Chief Matilda Ramjattan of the Lennox Island First Nation says new information uncovered by the University of Prince Edward Island’s climate lab is alarming.
“The information is staggering actually to show that we’ve been losing about a hectare a year,” she says.
According to the university, Lennox Island used to cover more than 1,500 acres and new information estimates a loss of roughly 400 acres since then.
The university’s lab has been monitoring coastal erosion for five years now, and has found that the province's coastline is dwindling consistently.
“It is in small increments from the human point of view, but in the long scheme of things, it's a lot,” says Kirsten McCaffrey from the climate research lab.
The team measures more than 100 shore markers around the province up to five times a week. It previously estimated 50 per cent of Lennox Island could be underwater in as little as 50 years.
McCaffrey says the study predicts sea levels will rise approximately two-metres within the next 100 years and the island’s sewage treatment plant will be almost completely underwater.
Gilbert Sark is a comprehensive community planner on Lennox Island and he says erosion is threatening areas where just fewer than 400 people live.
“With the surges and storms, they actually have the water coming right up onto their property,” Sark says.
The study suggests it’s not just housing that’s in trouble, but gas bars, bridges and archeological sites that could give scientists information into the history of the island are at stake
“Like anything else, it's not if it's going to happen, it's when,” says Sark.
The First Nation extends to the mainland, where they're prepared to move homes if needed in the future, while looking at purchasing additional property, or looking for funding for a seawall.
Chief Ramjattan says it’s time to start preparing for the possibility whether it’s now or later.
“We have to think not only about today, not only about tomorrow, but what about our grandkids's grandkids's grandkids?” “We want to ensure there is something here for them long after we're gone.”
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Cami Kepke.