An Ontario based consulting firm is recommending artificial reefs be built offshore from West Point to slow erosion along the shoreline and protect the area’s historic lighthouse.
The West Point Lighthouse and the nearby Cedar Dune Provincial Park were left vulnerable following post-tropical storm Dorian after a temporary dune system built the previous summer was destroyed and concrete blocks that had been placed along the barrier had been displaced by the powerful storm surge.
“It was a stop gap measure to protect during typical conditions while we developed a longer term solution and then Dorian sort of changed everything,” said Mike Davies, president of Coldwater Consulting Ltd.
Mr Davies said on average the shoreline along West Point loses about two metres per year to erosion. Following Dorian, it’s estimated about eight metres of beach was lost as a result of the storm.
“It made the need for a proper solution pressing and urgent,” said Mr Davies.
The series of artificial reefs being proposed for West Point will be built about 20 metres offshore using sandstones. The reefs will encourage the accumulation of sand, help build out the beach and to slow or stop the erosion occurring along the shoreline.
Waves crashing over the reefs would break up into smaller waves as they head for the shore. The reefs would also slow down the current flowing along the shore.
“It basically creates a calm zone in behind (the reefs) that encourages sand disposition,” explained Mr Davies.
Additional work will include placing armour stones at the back of the beach to protect the parking lot and other critical infrastructure.
“It’s sort of a two phase approach, were we are trying to do what we can to enhance the sandy beach while at the same time put in the protection works that are acquired to stop examine storms and high water levels washing over and taking out critical infrastructure,” said Mr Davies.
For the last decade, Coldwater Consulting has been working with the provincial government on repairing shorelines damaged by storms as well as doing shoreline erosion studies for the province.
Last year, the firm designed and installed a similar reef structure in Souris as a demonstration project for shoreline protection.
“The idea for that was to basically build up the beach there as the first element of shore protection,” explained Mr Davies. “A lot of shore protection consists of just dumping armour stone on the beach to protect whatever is behind it from eroding and that tends to leave you with no beach. You protected your lawn or road, but you’ve mucked up the shoreline.”
Mr Davis said his firm has been working with the province to find ideas that would not only safeguard shorelines but preserve them while at the same time use the shoreline to create a beach that would disperse wave energy and protect infrastructure onshore.
“At West Point, the challenge is to protect the park, the lighthouse area and the parking for the lighthouse without losing the beach,” he said.
Mr Davies said the artificial reefs installed in Souris have worked quite well and have improved beach conditions.
According to Coldwater Consulting, the artificial reefs were the best option for West Point, said PEI Tourism Minister Matthew MacKay.
“They figure it’s the best solution and that we should get a 40-50 year fix out of it,” he said.
The project could cost up to a million dollars, but the exact price is still undetermined as the province waits to see if there’s any opportunity to cost-share the work with the federal government. The timeline for when the project would begin is also undetermined until the province hears back from the Canadian government.
“We’re really hoping to get something done this winter if we can,” said Mr MacKay.
Mr MacKay said his department has received a lot of calls from local residents concerned about the lighthouse, the beach and the provincial park since post-tropical storm Dorian.
“It’s taken some time because it’s such a big project,” said Mr MacKay, adding he understands that West Point is one of the most important tourism destinations in the region. “I just want to ensure the residents of West Prince we are working on it and we’re really trying to get this through as quick as we can.”