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Reefs proposed for protecting West Point lighthouse, provincial park from storm surges

West Point Lighthouse remains vulnerable to storm surges after September’s post-tropical storm Dorian played with concrete barriers “like Lego blocks.” The provincial government is hoping to have funding in place soon so that work on long-term protection for the tourism infrastructure can be carried out this winter.
West Point Lighthouse remains vulnerable to storm surges after September’s post-tropical storm Dorian played with concrete barriers “like Lego blocks”. The provincial government is hoping to have funding in place soon so that work on long-term protection for the tourism infrastructure can be carried out this winter. - Eric McCarthy
WEST POINT, P.E.I. —

A long-term solution to erosion issues in front of the West Point Lighthouse could be underway this winter.

Provincial Tourism Minister Mathew MacKay said Dec. 30 the provincial government has accepted recommendations from Coldwater Consulting for the placement of a series of reefs in the water to protect the lighthouse and Cedar Dunes Provincial Park from the forces of powerful wave action. 

“It’s a long-term solution that should last 40, 50 years, is what we’re being told,” the MacKay said of the plan of action.

MacKay said the solution is likely to cost in excess of $1 million, adding the provincial government will be turning to the federal government for assistance.

Harvey Stewart, a member of the West Point Development Corporation committee looking to protect the lighthouse, said last week he was told a request for proposals could be issued by the second week of January.

He’s expecting work to be underway by early February.

MacKay is not disputing Stewart’s timeline, suggesting work could begin soon after funding is approved.

“I’m thinking, within the next two weeks, we should know a lot more,” he said.

“There are no real roadblocks that I’ve seen yet; it’s just a matter of securing funding. With a major project like that, it takes a little bit of time.”

He said he’s received a lot of questions, phone calls and emails from West Prince residents who are concerned about the lighthouse. 

“We know it needs to be done. It’s vital for West Prince. It’s one of the top tourism destinations up there. We’ve got the campground next door, as a government asset, we need to protect as well.”

A sand wall was erected this year to provide some protection following storm damage done in December 2018. 

“We were hoping to get a little more time than we did with that; we knew it wasn’t going to last. It wasn’t a long-term solution," he said. 

"But after Dorian hit, that basically, completely ruined that wall, so we said, ‘We need to figure out a long-term plan that we’re not going through this after every storm’.”

High tides continue to threaten the sand dune to the north of a protective wall in front of the West Point Lighthouse. The provincial government has accepted a consultant’s recommendation for long-term protection of the lighthouse. - Eric McCarthy/Journal Pioneer
High tides continue to threaten the sand dune to the north of a protective wall in front of the West Point Lighthouse. The provincial government has accepted a consultant’s recommendation for long-term protection of the lighthouse. - Eric McCarthy/Journal Pioneer

Egmont MP Bobby Morrissey said he’s also in favour of a long-term fix, agreeing with MacKay that the concrete and sand was no match for September’s post-tropical storm Dorian. 

“It just played with that stuff like Lego blocks.”

“My interest is, rather than a Band-Aid, if there is a long-term, let’s look at what a long-term solution can be,” said Morrissey, who is awaiting the consultants' report. 

MacKay said his department is seeking Morrissey’s advice on which federal programs to turn to for funding support.

He expects Morrissey will have the report this week. 

MacKay suggested wintertime, when the ground is frozen, is a good time to carry out such a project, and said the consulting firm has offered assurances that ice in the strait would not stand in the way of the work.

The protection, MacKay said, would be similar to what has been installed near Souris.

“This isn’t something we’re turning a blind eye to.” 

Morrissey referred to the lighthouse as “iconic to Western P.E.I.’s tourism infrastructure”.

Stewart said he anticipates the project will also extend the protective wall which is in place directly in front of the lighthouse.

He said storm surges have been eating away at either end of the wall and putting the lighthouse in danger.

Stewart does not believe there has been significant change to the beachfront since Dorian’s storm seas subsided, but said he is looking forward to the strait icing over thus protecting the beachfront from stormy seas.

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