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Rising waters could make half this island sink in 50 years

Leeanna McLean
Digital Reporter

Sunday, September 11, 2016, 7:55 PM - Lennox Island off the northwest coast of Prince Edward Island, is in a battle with rising sea levels. Scientists now say in 50 years, there is a chance half the island could be underwater.

Dave Haley's house could disappear in the next several years as water continues to creep closer to his property, which is located just six metres from the Atlantic Ocean. The property manager for Lennox Island says he loses about a metre of his backyard every year.

"A lot of people don't realize the power of water," Haley told CBC Radio's Day 6. "A lot of people want to turn a blind eye, but look, it's happening."

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The small First Nations community is vulnerable to coastal erosion as the island is about four metres above sea level and made of sandstone with no hard bedrock.

Climate scientist and director of the Climate Research Lab at the University of Prince Edward Island Adam Fenech told CBC the island is eroding twice as fast as the rest of P.E.I. with under one hectare lost every year. Researchers say it could take a storm surge of just three metres for Lennox Island to be entirely cut off from the mainland. This is something Fenech says could happen in the next 50 years.

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"Probably in about 50 years, with the three-metre increase, we'd probably see half the island in the water completely," Fenech told CBC Radio's Day 6.

The only bridge connecting Lennox Island to P.E.I. is at major risk and is often closed off to drivers and pedestrians during severe storms. Chief Matilda Ramjattan of the Lennox Island First Nation remembers a storm surge flooding the bridge in 2010 during her cousin's wedding.

"Somebody came in and said, 'The bridge has been washed out on Lennox Island, it's been barricaded off, you can't get off,'" she told CBC. "With nature working against us, sometimes it makes us realize our fragility of life and the fragility of our island."

"If there's ever an emergency that's occurring on Lennox Island, they cannot get the emergency vehicle there," added Fenech. "So, that's the real risk right now."


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