Souris breakwaters are working with the forces of nature
Something is causing a stir near the Souris causeway – in a good way.
Two sandstone reefs installed by the Prince Edward Island government are working like a charm. The offshore breakwaters (also known as intertidal reefs) are designed to protect the causeway -- the main route into town -- and the picturesque shoreline from the punishing effects of climate change and storm surge events.
The phones at city hall have been ringing. Residents are excited to see sand building-up along the beach area instead of leaving due to erosion.
“Some locations are more challenging and susceptible to the effects of climate change,” explains Brian Thompson, Director of Land and Environment Division for the Department of Transportation Infrastructure and Energy. “We need to look at alternative, innovative ways to approach these areas.”
The reefs, which were installed last winter as an experimental pilot project at a cost of $115,000, are made of Island sandstone so they blend into the natural environment.
Government worked closely with a local contractor, the town of Souris, as well as the local watershed group - the Souris Wildlife Federation to study sediment patterns in Colville Bay and come up with a method to reduce coastal erosion that threatens the causeway, a critical piece of infrastructure.
The reefs have two functions. They provide an obvious barrier between waves and the beach, thus dampening the effects of wave action on the beach and dunes. They also create an area of ‘calmer water’ on the landward side of the reefs – sand that is moving along the shore area tends to slow down and deposit in the calm water areas behind the reefs and, over time, the sand builds-up and adds to the the existing beach sand essentially causing the beach to extend offshore. This process is called “accretion,” the opposite of erosion, Thompson explains.
It’s working, and clearly visible in drone footage and to the naked eye. Locals have been calling to say they’re noticing too.
“They are working as we had planned and hoped, it’s quite encouraging,” he said.
The province and Coldwater Consulting intend to apply for an environmental achievement award through the Association of Professional Engineers of Prince Edward Island for the project.
The reefs are working so well, government is considering similar projects in other areas of the Island.
“We are seeing more frequent and intense storms and, at some locations, alternate engineering approaches need to be explored,” Thompson said.
“Everyone, including government, has to find ways to adapt to an ever changing climate.”