Aging wharf infrastructure that might not be able to stand many more poundings from storm surges and rising sea levels and were not built to accommodate the larger fishing vessels of today are increasingly becoming a safety concern for Harbour Authority managers in southwestern Nova Scotia.
“They have reached the end of their operational life,” said Dick Crowell, manager of the Harbour Authority of Cape Sable Island (HACSI), where the condition of wharves in South Side, Stoney Island and Clam Point are of immediate concern.
“They were built pretty solid, but can’t continue to take the beating from the waves we’re seeing now. The sea heights are getting higher. When a storm surge comes, the combination of tides and waves are causing the wharves to get overtopped,” creating dangerous conditions for fishermen when checking their boats and tending their lines.
The structural integrity of wharf structures was also on Crowell’s mind these days. “We have fuel trucks going down and loading the boats. I kind of want to know the structure is sound. That’s my responsibility. I really have to know how safe that wharf is. We have to do something before something happens. We want to be proactive not reactive.”
Crowell said the deterioration of wharves in the area are “pretty much common because the responsibility of maintenance at the wharves is Small Craft Harbours and they have been chronically underfunded for many years. It’s an ongoing issue. That’s the real reason why the wharves are deteriorating,” he said.
“We do patches and repair those various things that we can look after, or we do the best we can with our limited resources that are paid for by the fishermen and to a certain extent assisted by Small Craft Harbours, so we’re talking major capital funding projects over $1 million. That’s significant money and wouldn’t take long to eat up the money available.”
Crowell said the HACSI has been submitting project proposals for the six wharves under their jurisdiction “as long as we’ve been in existence” with some harbour improvements getting done over the years while other proposals are pending.
The federal government has earmarked $250 million in Budget 2018 to renew the country’s network of small craft harbours, starting in 2018/19. The federal budget is expected to be approved in June, after which time the funding allocation specific to Nova Scotia will be determined and wharf improvement projects identified.
In 2016, the federal government announced $289 million to improve small craft harbours nation-wide by 2018, including $49 million for 61 small craft harbour projects in Nova Scotia over the two years. Of that, $6.9 million went to six projects within West Nova, including wharves and harbour improvements and breakwater construction in Lower Argyle, Cape St. Mary’s, Parker’s Cove, Pinkney’s Point, Wedgeport and Yarmouth Bar.
In the South Shore St. Margaret’s federal riding, a total of $15.2 million for 15 Small Craft Harbour projects was announced by MP Bernadette Jordan to be done over the same two-year period and included projects in Upper Port La Tour, Stoney Island, Bear Point, Blandford (Shoal Cove), Clark’s Harbour, Cripple Creek, Dublin Shore, East Port L’Hebert, Gunning Cove, Ingomar (Black Point), Lower Sandy Point, Newellton, South Side, Voglers Cove and West Head.