Wall construction proceeds in Souris despite public opposition

Published on March 22, 2016

Wildlife federation members Fred Cheverie, left, and Fred Ward oppose a seawall stretching the length of 15 tractor trailers along the Souris beach.

©STEVE SHARRATT/THE GUARDIAN

Construction started last week on a project which many believe will devastate the dune system and severely damage the popular and picturesque beach that acts as a welcome mat to the town of Souris.

“No one wants it….but government isn’t listening to us,’’ insists Fred Cheverie of the Souris Wildlife Federation.

“It’s become the talk of the town.”

The Souris wall — a 220-metre long protection barrier — has the green light despite opposition.

The government is proceeding with the $300,000 project using a hemlock and sandstone wall to protect the main highway into town.

But opponents say the province is ignoring its own logic that saw the new $9-million bridge constructed last year built more than a metre higher to recognize pending sea level rise.

“Instead of raising the road, they are taking the cheap route and building a sea wall that will not only be ugly, but ruin the dunes and the popularity of the Souris beach,” says Cheverie.

Federation member Fred Ward believes failure to raise the highway — now barely a metre above sea level — will see it eventually it under water.

“The seawall won’t be able to hold off the rising water, and meanwhile it ruins the beach,’’ he said.

Environment Minister Robert Mitchell toured the site last week with Souris Mayor David MacDonald and some council members. All permits required for the more than two-metre seawall have been met.

“It will be our Trump wall,’’ said the mayor.

“What can you say; it’s the best of the bad choices.”

In a perfect world, the road would be raised, but MacDonald said government coffers aren’t deep enough to cover such a project, which is estimated at $5 million.

“It’s a given that the road has to be raised,” he said. “So this is the short-term solution when you have no money.”

Wayne MacKinnon, a spokesman with the P.E.I. government, said the province is confident in the design of the project given the highly qualified professional design expert. The minister also told Souris officials that phase 2 of the project would see refurbishment of the dune system.

Residents are concerned, considering wave and storm patterns of Colville Bay, that the dune and beach will be swept away with the construction of a seawall — 15 tractor trailers long — to protect the road.