Dykeland system upgrades

Protecting communities and agricultural land from climate change.

Nova Scotia’s dykeland system protects agricultural land, public infrastructure, cultural assets and commercial and residential properties throughout the province. The system needs to be upgraded to reduce the potential economic, environmental and social effects of climate change as storms increase in intensity and frequency.

In 2019, an 8-year, almost $50 million project began to upgrade some of the most vulnerable sites in the province. This project will protect natural infrastructure that’s primarily for public use. Without upgrades, the sites are at high risk of damage from climate change.

The dykeland upgrades will improve more than 25% of Nova Scotia’s 241 kilometres of dykeland along the Bay of Fundy. These sites provide flood protection to tens of thousands of residents and businesses, vineyards, historical and world heritage sites, Mi'kmaq communities and more than 20,000 hectares of farmland.

The sites being upgraded include 60 kilometres of dykeland and 5 aboiteaux in 4 dykeland systems: Cumberland Basin, Cobequid Bay, Southern Bight and the Annapolis River. Sites were selected based on damage caused by climate change, the dykes’ vulnerability to breaching and the communities, agricultural land and infrastructure that the dykeland protects.

The upgrades are funded equally by the provincial and federal government through the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund.

Project mandate

The goals of this project are to:

  • to mitigate the potential economic, environmental, and social impacts of climate change
  • to improve the resilience of Nova Scotia’s dykeland systems
  • to develop sustainable solutions while maintaining agricultural land and infrastructure to the maximum extent possible

Consultation with the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia

The Dykeland System Upgrades Project recognizes that the dykelands in the Bay of Fundy dykeland system are important to the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia. They may have special cultural, archaeological and spiritual significance.

The Government of Nova Scotia is formally committed to consulting with the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia before making decisions that could negatively affect established or asserted Aboriginal and treaty rights. The Department of Agriculture is leading consultation with advice from the Office of Aboriginal Affairs.

Stakeholder engagement

Engagement with stakeholders is critical to achieving long-term, sustainable solutions for the impacted communities. Throughout the 8-year project, government will consult with stakeholders, including landowners, for their input on the how the dykeland system should be upgraded. We’ll contact landowners through the Marsh Body and reach out to others directly.

Dykeland history

Since the early 1600s, European settlers have converted tidal salt marshes along the Bay of Fundy into rich and productive agricultural farmland. Nova Scotia’s Dykeland System was begun by the French, expanded by the English, and is now maintained by the province with the assistance of the Government of Canada.

Nova Scotia’s upland soils are not naturally suited for most types of agricultural production. Therefore, the Acadian settlers manually constructed dykes, ditches and aboiteaux to use the coastal marshlands for agriculture. This was a more economic use of their labour than clearing upland fields. Once leached of salt the marshlands are highly fertile because of the deposition of silt and marine minerals from the Fundy tidewaters.

Even well-constructed dykes need continuing restoration. Nova Scotia’s dykes and aboiteaux were last significantly upgraded during the 1950s and 1960s. Those upgrades are no longer adequate. Dykes need to be built higher because of rising sea levels, and stronger because of more powerful and frequent storms.

Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund