Storms continue to wreak havoc

Flooding at Grand Bay West beach parking lot on January 18, 2022. Towns across the province continue to deal with winter storm damage and coastal erosion. – © Ryan King

By Ryan King

Community News Reporter

SOUTHWEST COAST – A storm on Jan. 18 caused flooding, damaged infrastructure, and exacerbated erosion on regional coastlines. It was yet another headache for Southwest coast communities that are still recovering from the late November 2021 storm, which caused extensive damage and highway washouts.

Leon MacIsaac, Port aux Basques Town Manager stated that the extent of damages around town are still being assessed.

“Once completed, the Town will be submitting a request to the Province for financial aid if available.”

The storms caused damages on a number of fronts.

“The area received substantial rainfall, high tides and storm surge during both events, which caused erosion, washouts and flooding issues on both private and Town property. The loss of power during the most recent event also created issues with the Sewage Pumping Stations that require power in order to operate.”

During the Jan. 18 storm, the town was challenged to find enough equipment to assist residents on top of its own municipal infrastructure concerns.

“The Town received a high level of requests for trash (de-watering) pumps and generators; however, we have a limited supply and are unable to provide this equipment to all requests. They are provided on a short term basis only to provide temporary relief.”

MacIsaac encouraged residents to ensure that preparations for future problems are sufficient.

“Residents are urged to have their properties prepared in the event of similar future events so as to minimize possible damages. The frequency and intensity of storms are becoming a reality for this area and the province, and are expected to continue for the foreseeable future.”

Shoreline erosion is another problem exacerbated by the recent storms, where the heavy rains, wind, and waves pound the coastlines. In Isle aux Morts there was damage done to Harvey’s Trail.

Lydia Francis, Town Clerk, stated, “One section of the trail (was) damaged by the storm surge. Rocks and debris was moved to the walking path of the trail.”

In Port aux Basques, staff try to ensure that there are measures in place to counteract damages when storms batter the area.

“Town staff monitor area coastline for signs of erosion and make repairs to public property where possible. Armour stone has been installed in various areas to combat the effects of erosion; however, storm surge creates repeated maintenance issues. The Grand Bay West Beach area has had a number of gabion baskets installed to combat erosion and will require further review along the parking lot area to find solutions to storm surge,” stated MacIsaac.

The town does assume responsibility for a significant area, stopping just short of a provincial park.

“The Town’s Municipal Boundary extends to the Edna’s Road area with the Planning Area boundary extending just south of the Cheeseman’s park entrance. Cheeseman’s Park is the responsibility of the province,” said MacIsaac.

Adrienne Luther works with the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts and Recreation.

“The Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts and Recreation, through ParksNL, has responsibility for four provincial parks on the southwest coast: the J.T. Cheeseman Provincial Park, the Sandbanks Provincial Park (Burgeo area), the Codroy Valley Provincial Park and portions of the T’Railway Provincial Park which run through the area.”

There were no damages resulting from the Jan. 18 storm with the exception of the T’Railway.

“Preliminary estimates for the repairs are between $160,000 – $200,000,” stated Luther.

The Department of Industry, Energy and Technology also engages in erosion monitoring under their geological surveys. Eric Humber, Media Relations Manager, stated that their coastal monitoring program aims to quantify coastal erosional and accretionary rates; determine processes leading to coastal change; and delineate areas at high risk from flooding, erosion, and/or slope movement.

“All sites in the program are selected based on coastal vulnerability. Sites are surveyed periodically (every five to ten years). Additionally, the province may undertake site-specific assessments based on a request from a community after a significant storm event that may have caused substantial damage.”

One assessment was done in Upper Island Cove following a storm.

“There have been recent assessments undertaken due to storm events. The latest site assessed was in Upper Island Cove, October 2020. Local residents in the area reported a landslide on the coast brought on by heavy precipitation that was assessed by the Geological Survey.”

There have been no assessments done in the Grand Bay West area as it has not been included in the program’s sites to date, and nor has there been a request submitted by the town to conduct one.

“The Coastal Monitoring Program consists of a series of sites that are measured and monitored on a periodic basis. An assessment was not done by the Coastal Monitoring Program following the November storm as no request was received from the town. The wash out of the highway would have been assessed and repaired by the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure.”

MacIsaac said that the town will be submitting their assessment of damages to the provincial government.

“The Coastal Monitoring program will be referenced in the coastal erosion issues the town has experienced from storm surge.”

Humber did state that there were assessments done in J.T. Cheeseman Provincial Park, but that was years ago.

“At the time of the surveys in 2013 and 2014, the site consisted of a sandy tidal flat whose maximum width was 41 metres and vegetation (grasses) overlying a sand substrate in the backshore. The surveys noted varying changes across the site, with the greatest erosion measured at 900 centimetres.”

These surveys are crucial to assess overall long-term impact.

“Erosion, whether it is natural or influenced by humans, can affect the environment and its functions; however, while we can monitor coastal erosion and changes in the physical environment, it is beyond the scope of the Geological Survey’s work to extrapolate how erosion may affect animals.”

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