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Examining erosion on the shoreline of the Minas Basin

This photo bu Phil Vogler is a portrait a Medford cliff that is continually eaten at by erosion.
This photo bu Phil Vogler is a portrait a Medford cliff that is continually eaten at by erosion.

MINAS BASIN, NS – Nonagenarian Dorothy Walker has witnessed approximately 70 feet of erosion since her family began summering in Kingsport in the 1920s.

This photo shows the tides tearing away at the soft banks at Porter’s Bank as clumps of earth head into the Minas Basin.

Her parents purchased a cottage at Kingsport in 1947 and that cottage has been moved back from the tide three times.
Like many village property owners, she says she bases her estimate on a foot a year of loss.
“There’s not a hell of a lot you can do about it,” the secretary of the Kingsport Cottage Owners opines. “It’s a fascinating process."
The high bluff that Robbins’ cottage sits on was once covered with fir and spruce trees. The soft banks loosened and the trees have gone.
“I remember us taking chairs and going toward the water to find some sun,” she recalled in an interview.
A new road was constructed along the row of cottages where her summer home sits. Farmer Jeff McMahon said that road was constructed in 1998. According to Robbins, 12 cottages were all relocated at various times.
Erosion is a fact of life on the Minas Basin. Kingsport is probably more affected by coastal erosion than any other Valley community.
Twenty-five years ago one wag in Kingsport noted, ‘I live in the centre of the village. If I live here long enough I’ll have a shore front property.’
Back in wartime Acadia University professor Esther Clark Wright wrote about nearby Porter’s Point in her book ‘Blomidon Rose’.
“A bad storm took a large bite out of the property. Several trees were washed away, trees under which we had picnicked during those happy reunion, and others were left hanging over the edge. One or two cottages, left dangerously near the edge, were moved back.”
There was once a lighthouse at the point, which marks the Habitant River. It is long gone. Many believe that the Windsor causeway, built in 1970, has increased erosion and moved quantities of soil around.
When the gypsum boats were still operating on the Avon River, siltation was a worry in Hantsport.
Capt. Alex Pritchard of Fundy Gypsum told The Hants Journal that the river was filling in quite alarmingly. “It’s very noticeable and I’ve only been here for two years,” he said.
Pritchard had viewed photos of 1970s which showed 100 feet of clearance for boats on the river. By the 1990s it was down to 15 feet.
Acadia professor emeritus Dr. Graham Daborn has pointed out that there is very little that can be done to alleviate coastal erosion. He’s noted that attempts to prevent erosion, “can cause more problems than good.”
In 1991 Daborn called salt marshes a slow, but effective way to combat erosion. He said they trap sediments and break the waves before they hit the banks or bluffs.
Daborn set out a warning then that sea levels were rising around the world and the greenhouse effect could increase the impact of the phenomenon or erosion.
Well ahead of Hurricane Harvey, Daborn predicted that Nova Scotians ought to be wary of significant rainfall events, extremely high tides and wind. While the total precipitation should be about the same, he suggested, it will come more quickly in stronger events.
There were times when the Kingsport community association sought government aid, but despite three applications volunteer Clarence MacDonald reported no interest in trying to battle the problem.
In the 1990s the late Robin Marshall, who headed the Kings Regional Development Commission, suggested it was time to think of taking action like England, where wave breakers and sea walls were installed.
In 2006, the late Dr. Mike Brylinsky, who was a research associate at Acadia, said that in hindsight the Avon River Causeway should not have been built, but the fact remains it was.
Geo-scientist Ian Spooner, a current faculty member at Acadia, says that erosion can have very little effect for decades and then natural cycles make for destruction.
Hired as a Highly Qualified Person (HQP) to advise municipal governments on development, Spooner says risk factors have to be examined before infrastructure is installed. Coastal set backs are necessary.
He pegs the loss of soil and rock at roughly 10 centimetres annually. Spooner doesn’t see any long- term value to applying rock to the shoreline. While rock might prevent erosion in the short term, it will be dispersed.
Erosion is inevitable.

This postcard, owned by Gerald Cudmore, depicts Delhaven and the mouth of the Pereau River looking toward Paddy’s Island.

Paddy’s Island: one notable landmark

The shifting shoreline of the Minas Basin is ever changing. No wonder Paddy’s Island fights extinction annually.
The red sandstone bluff separated over a century ago from the mainland and the resulting island was named for the man who owned the land.
Patrick Burns was an Irishman who came to Canada and purchased the farm at the mouth of the Pereau River in 1855.
It was once possible to jump from it to the mainland and children were attracted to the island because of an abundance of raspberries and blackberries.
In the last 50 years Paddy’s Island has declined in size by more than half. Who knows its future as a landmark?


 

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