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Residents dealing with erosion react to N.S. abandonment of Coastal Protection Act

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Joyce Peach has lived in her cliffside home in Port Morien, N.S., for more than 60 years. She's now 94-years-old, and in recent years she has found herself living dangerously close to the water's edge.

"Property is gradually falling into the ocean,” Peach told CTV Atlantic during an interview in February 2022. “Everyone tells me I have a million dollar view, but that is all I have."

Now the Nova Scotia government has decided to abandon the Coastal Protection Act that was given Royal Assent in 2019, Peach's son Stan says it only reaffirms what the family has known all along: that when it comes to erosion, his mother is on her own.

"It doesn't change anything for mom,” he said. “That house, I'm hoping it's going to outlast her. (But) what happens when she leaves there? Nobody's going to go into that house. Am I going to pay to tear it down? Not likely. It'll fall over the cliff before I ever do anything with it."

Cape Breton Regional Municipality Mayor Amanda McDougall-Merrill spoke with Nova Scotia Environment Minister Tim Halman about the issue Tuesday afternoon, seeking clarification on whether municipalities and homeowners will have to bear the responsibility of coastal erosion.

"It is concerning. This is very, very important. We are still in the midst of the most recent weather event that is climate-related,” McDougall-Merrill said. "Without having great detail, it does seem like this is another download onto municipalities in terms of our bylaws and lack of enforcement. When you see this type of legislation, it's good to have a standard that's the same across the province.”

CTV News Atlantic reached out to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, and while they didn't address whether insurance rates for coastal owners might go up — or be denied altogether — they provided an emailed statement that said, in part, “The property and casualty insurance industry has observed an alarming increase in damage from severe weather over the last decade. As a result, coastal properties have become especially vulnerable to damage. We applaud the Nova Scotia government for taking action to help minimize these risks for residents.”

Stan Peach says the Port Morien property is now only about 15 metres from the cliff's edge, but his mother still intends to stay.

"She told them when they did a story on her for W5 on the erosion that they'll take her out of there feet-first, and I guess that's what's going to happen,” Peach said.

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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