May 29, 2023

Five Questions with Andrew Black, Mayor of Tantramar

By Evergreen

for the Community Solutions Network

This Innovation Series features some of the inspiring people working on smart solutions in communities across Canada

What kind of place is Tantramar? Can you describe it for those who’ve never been.

Tantramar is the gateway to New Brunswick, situated right on the border of Nova Scotia. It encompasses the Town of Sackville, Village of Dorchester and a rural network of smaller quaint locations that make up our newly amalgamated borders.  We are a welcoming and accepting community and pride ourselves on our cultural capacity, our economic drive and the connection to nature, conservation and a love of the outdoors. Tantramar is the home of Mount Allison University, the Waterfowl Park and the UNESCO Fundy Biosphere Reserve at Johnson’s Mills among many other fantastic sites. We are also recognized by the UN as the only accredited Wetlands City in North America due to our continued efforts for conservation and incorporation of wetland areas.

What are the major impacts of climate change in the region?

Being located on the Bay of Fundy and beside the Tantramar Marsh, Tantramar is impacted greatly by the increasing changes to the climate. The bay has the highest tides in the world and is often affected by high winds and storm surges putting stress on the dykes that hold back the power of the ocean. Many areas of our municipality are subject to inland flooding from heavy rainfall events, exacerbated by the ebb and flow of tides. Tantramar, like other Atlantic locations, has been seeing an increase in frequency and severity of storms, tropical depressions and hurricanes.

Road closure sign to traffic due to flooding

Tell us how the Lorne Street Stormwater Mitigation project came to be.

After a major rain event flooded large parts of the municipality, cutting some residents off from essential services, a study was commissioned to analyze how best to alleviate Sackville’s infrastructure and rid the town of inland flood waters. The engineering firm, through the study and consultation with town staff, devised a series of naturalized retention ponds to control the storage and release of flood waters while also updating the aging underground infrastructure around the roads falling in the topographical low point in Sackville.

What are the obstacles the project has had to overcome?

The biggest obstacle that this project faced was communication and buy-in of the public. We started in 2017 to do the work, back when the acceptance of the climate reality was getting better but was not where it is today. There was a robust communication plan created followed by public engagement sessions to continually update citizens of the progress and the reasoning behind the project. One of the other obstacles was financing of the project, but fortunately the Town of Sackville was able, through fiscal responsibility of local budgets and successful funding applications, to secure a tripartite agreement to get the work done.

Rendering of the Lorne Street mitigation project showing park, waterway and sidewalks

Did planning and implementation work? What have you learned?

In the end, the planning and implementation of the project did work, but we realized both during construction and after the retention ponds were built, that we needed even more water holding capacity. We will be starting on the third and final phase of our Lorne Street Stormwater Mitigation Project within the next month which will see a third retention pond as well as a water control structure on an existing quarry to give us the full capacity that we need to secure and protect the Town of Sackville. Tantramar also realized the value of co-benefits when doing a project like this. The retention ponds that we built are also used as naturalized areas with many floras and faunas finding their homes there, as well as active living spaces with the access roads built to do the work turned into trails that connect to our trail network within the town.

As Mayor of Tantramar, what excites you about your work?

When I ran for council in 2016, I did so to try to make a difference in the community that I love. I have three children and an extended family here in Tantramar and I wanted to ensure that the town I grew up in prospered and flourished.  I love working with my fellow councilors, municipal staff and the other orders of government to get the best outcomes for Tantramar that I can. I am also excited by policy, process and procedure.

What are you working on right now?

The most important work that I am doing right now is addressing healthcare and housing in Tantramar. We have a small rural hospital in Sackville that was in danger of closing in 2020 which would have been a huge detriment to our community in so many ways. Now in 2023, the hospital is in a much better position, but healthcare service delivery is still not where it needs to be. We also have a problem, like everywhere else in the nation, with a lack of housing stock and that is something that I am trying desperately to address.

Where do you look for inspiration?

I have had the great fortune to meet many elected officials from across the province and the country and the conversations around process, best practices and municipal governance have been some of the greatest sources of inspiration for me. It also cannot be undersold the value of living in a small, close-knit community with a population that enjoys conversation. The many exchanges that I have had, and continue to have, with residents in the municipality is incredibly inspiring.

Mayor Black presented the Lorne Street Stormwater Mitigation Project at Evergreen’s Community Solutions Network event in Halifax last March.

You can connect with him on LinkedIn.

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