What are Saint John’s environmental concerns?

From PlanSJ documentation: The natural environment is the greatest defining feature and asset of Saint John. Thraughout the City, the landscape changes from Fundy’s tidal marshes and estuaries to towering cliffs overlooking the Bay of Fundy and the Saint John River. The City’s extensive coastlines, “world class” geology and vast forested areas help Saint John top the list as the most environmentally diverse city in Atlantic Canada.

The Significance of Saint John’s geology has put our region on the shortlist towards achieving UNESCO Geopark designation. If achieved, the Geopark designation would incorporate a number of sites in the region including the Reversing Falls, Rockwood Park, Irving Nature Park, the Fundy Trail Parkway, the praposed Norton Fossil Forest Interpretation Center, the Lepreau Falls Provincial Park and the New Brunswick Museum. The project would combine a billion years of geologic history of geosciences investigation for the region. If UNESCO grants the designation, it would offer significant economic and tourism benefits to the City.

However, this same geology presents challenges in that rocky terrain requires specialized construction techniques that are more intrusive and result in higher construction costs for new development. A balanced approach towards development and understanding our enviranment’s natural systems can protect Saint John’s future.

The effect of Saint John’s growth on natural wildlife has had some unforeseen circumstances. While some wildlife species decline due to habitat loss, some other species, such as whitetail deer, are proliferating in many suburban neighbourhoods. Local weather patterns have seen significant changes in the natural frequency and intensity of major storm events. Climate change, as evidenced by increasingly frequent heavy rainfall events which have impacted the City’s developed areas, especially those in flood prone areas, will challenge our traditional patterns of development and understanding of natural systems.

The focus on flooding issues in Saint John occurs primarily along Marsh Creek. Today, Saint John’s Atlantic Coastal Action Program (ACAP) has been championing the Marsh Creek Restoration Initiative (MCRI) as a project that will combine many elements of sustainability with the ultimate goal of transforming a degraded ecosystem into an example of a fully functional and integrated urban watercourse.

Human activities have a significant effect on the health of water-based and land-based natural systems and the species that depend on them. Thinking about traditional patterns of development in the future, it will be important to keep in mind the location of land uses in relation to:

  • Protection of wetlands, natural areas and corridors, including forested lands that provide important animal and plant habitats and foster healthy ecosystems;
  • Rising sea levels and extreme weather events;
  • Location of natural resource extraction activities.

like many cities, Saint John’s growth has been the natural result of low cost gas and oil, an abundance of available rural land, and the physical constraints of the landscape that pushed development further out from the urban core. Because neither the cost of land nor the cost of transportation exacts an obvious or immediate penalty, the true cost to our environment becomes clear only later, as residents drive farther and pollute more.

In response, Saint John’s Integrated Community Sustainability Plan (ICSP) guides the City toward specific prajects and braadbased community actions that work towards long term urban sustainability. Same of the ICSP’s specific projects include restoration of Marsh Creek, water treatment, and the municipal plan review (PlanSJ).

Water systems are a defining feature of Saint John, which include: the St. John River (which drains 51 % of New Brunswick, 13% of Quebec and 36% of Maine); the Kennebecasis River (which defines the City’s northern border); the Reversing Falls; the Bay of Fundy; 10 watersheds (the Hammond River watershed is the most affected by human activity, including Marsh Creek, Hazen Creek, little River and Alder Braok); and many complex wetland systems.

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