By Ryan King
Community News Reporter
PORT AUX BASQUES – Coastal communities are often confronted with wind and waves that can cause erosion on their coastlines. In light of this, the town of Port aux Basques has recently installed gabion cages, which are wire cages filled with rocks, to prevent areas of the Grand Bay West walking trail and the shoreline from being further eroded by stormy weather.
However, resident Mark Lomond, took to social media to express concerns that using local beach rock to fill the cages, instead of materials brought in from elsewhere, would actually encourage erosion on the beach itself, and that the town was altering the habitat unnecessarily. Another concern for Lomond was that the affected area falls within a Stewardship Zone and an Environmental Protection Zone.
“I just received messages from a couple concerned citizens and made the post because that gets the quickest action,” said Lomond.
“The stewardship zone which extends from Grand Bay West Beach to just south of Cheeseman’s Park is intended to protect species at risk and natural habitat elements such as the sand dunes, piping plover, etc. The environmental zone is also meant to protect the sensitive dune areas and piping plover during nesting season,” said Town Manager Leon MacIsaac.
MacIsaac also shared that the town’s shoreline stabilization program to install the rock cages was being done through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA).
“The Town has an employment program through ACOA which is currently using natural resources, such as existing beach rocks, and placing them in gabion baskets to protect the trails and shoreline from erosion,” said MacIsaac.
The program made use of local materials to avoid a larger environmental impact.
“Attempting to bring in rock material from an outside source, such as a quarry, would cause unnecessary damage to the natural environment from heavy equipment entering this area or any areas adjacent to the beach,” explained MacIsaac.
He said that this work can be difficult given the amount of erosion seen on the coasts in the area.
“The beach experiences constant erosion from storms and surf action that is difficult to remediate. In an effort to slow or stop area erosion, the installation of gabion cages and existing rock material was the least intrusive method to solve the issue of erosion.”
Lynn Robinson, Media Relations Manager with the Department of Environment and Climate Change, stated that, “Gabion cages can be used for erosion protection and as retaining walls. However, the Department of Environment and Climate Change’s permit conditions require that the fill material be sourced from an approved quarry site. It must not be taken from beaches or streams, and must not be dredged from a body of water.”
She added that the Water Resources Division had been in contact with the town, and the town will be submitting an application for a permit to complete the remaining shoreline stabilization work.
Lomond shared that the town had reached out to contact him to explain that they were changing how they were approaching the project.
“They messaged me and told me they ordered the stone to fill them afterwards,” said Lomond.
MacIsaac stated that further assessments will be done before the work continues.
“The trail will be assessed this spring to determine whether further measures are required to minimize erosion.”