On the rocks
Department of Transportation to build up armour rock protecting both sides of the Canso Causeway.
PORT HAWKESBURY — The Department of Transportation will spend $590,000 to build up the armour rock protecting both sides of the Canso Causeway, a spokesperson says.
Patricia Jreige said the department performed a survey and analysis a few years ago of the armour rock of the causeway linking Cape Breton and mainland Nova Scotia, which was constructed in 1955, that “identified that the causeway would benefit from some added armour, in various locations.”
A tender for the work has been awarded and it will begin in the spring — an exact start date was not available — and is to be completed in the summer.
“ This is preventative maintenance work, so it will help maintain and improve the effectiveness, basically, of the armour rock that’s there to protect against the marine elements,” Jreige said.
For years, Port Hawkesbury Mayor Billy Joe MacLean has argued the causeway is showing signs of its age. He raised concerns about the condition of the armour rock and town council wrote a number of letters on the issue to the Department of Transportation. MacLean has argued that the armour rock needs to be improved in order to protect the causeway against damage from the elements.
“I believe in persistency, that you keep after them,” he said, and referred to damage that occurred at the span during “the last big storm.”
High winds and waves in a November 2001 storm caused what officials described at the time as the worst damage to the link since it opened. It was the first time there was an actual washout of the causeway’s road surface since its construction and the cost of repairs exceeded $100,000.
In December 2004, a severe ocean surge spread a great deal of debris across the causeway and also washed out sections of the road shoulder.
“ When I was a young fella, I worked there as a kid building it ... I can recall vividly we couldn’t see the water (while travelling on the causeway), they had the armour stone piled
THE CANSO CAUSEWAY
Opened in 1955, replacing a ferry service linking Cape Breton and mainland Nova Scotia. Les and Murray MacPhie studied the causeway’s rock fill and rip-rap — the large boulders used on the outskirts of the causeway to prevent erosion and to knock down waves. They collaborated on a paper for a geotechnical journal and presented some findings during 50th anniversary events. They said the causeway’s underwater section was in good condition and it should continue to safely serve those coming to and leaving Cape Breton Island for many years. Les MacPhie said that while there has been some settlement — about two to three feet over the first 50 years — it occurs gradually, not affecting the road surface. MacPhie noted it’s unlikely the causeway would receive environmental approval if proposed today. Murray MacPhie also put the size of the engineering feat into perspective. “It’s higher than Niagara Falls by 50 per cent,” he said. “It’s heavier than the great Giza pyramid.” that high,” MacLean said. “People who are in the diving business tell me that if you’re a diver and you went down to the bottom and checked along the armour stone wall underwater, there are actually caverns that have washed away, down deep.”
A transportation official in responding to MacLean’s concern previously said he doubted that piling the armour rock above the roadway is the answer to making it easier to cross the causeway during severe storm conditions, as it would create an area for the snow to drift.
MacLean said he is looking for more details about the project, but he’s happy it will take place.
“It’s all we have, it’s the only way to get on the island and off the island,” he said.
Scores of people walked across the Canso Causeway during 50th anniversary celebrations in 2005. The province will pay $590,000 to do some preventative maintenance to the span linking Cape Breton and mainland Nova Scotia by reinforcing its armour rock.