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Bay of Fundy, tidal power, Nova Scotia, sustainability, environmental law


The vast potential for tidal power development in the Bay of Fundy region of the Atlantic coast has been recognized for decades. At the same time, finding an effective way to harness this power in a cost effective, sustainable and environmentally responsible manner has been an ongoing challenge. In the 1980s, barrage based tidal power technology was piloted in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia. It was found to be unsuitable from both environmental and cost perspectives.

More recently, pilot projects underway around the world are using new, open turbine technology that is expected to significantly reduce cost and environmental impact. This technology operates on principles similar to a wind turbine, except it is anchored on the seabed in tidal waters. These turbines are able to take advantage of flows of water in both directions, and offer power in predictable intervals during most of the tidal cycle. While this technology is still in the early stages of commercialization, there are pilot projects underway around the world. As a result, the question of how to make decisions on whether, where and under what conditions to permit tidal power development in regions such as the Bay of Fundy have arisen again.

The Bay of Fundy finds itself in a region of Canada that has seen the introduction of a number of major new industries over the past few decades. Included in this list are pulp and paper, aquaculture, and, most recently, offshore oil and gas facilities. Decisions on how to regulate these industries were generally reactive and sometimes short-sighted. Since the arrival of these industries, there has been considerable change in the understanding of how governments can make responsible decisions in the best long term interest of their citizens. The pending arrival of tidal power development in Nova Scotia provides an opportunity to implement the lessons learned, to apply appropriate governance models to see through the fog, and to maximize long term benefits to the region.

The following article seeks to make the case for principled governance of resource based industries such as tidal power. The primary aim is to offer an overview of the international, constitutional and legislative context and to briefly illustrate the benefits of a principled, proactive approach. A detailed design of the proposed governance regime, strategic assessment and integrated planning processes are left for follow-up research. The purpose here is to lay the foundation for such further work.

The article therefore considers issues related to the governance of this new development opportunity by first identifying, in Parts One and Two, the international and constitutional context within which any governance regime for the Bay of Fundy would exist. Parts Three and Four then briefly describe key existing legislative and regulatory systems in place in Nova Scotia that would apply to tidal power development projects. Experiences in other jurisdictions are assessed in Part Five, both with respect to tidal power and for other comparable offshore developments, such as wind. Within this overall context, Part 6 of the article then offers some preliminary thoughts on the essential elements of a suitable governance regime.

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