On the rocks

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY NANCY KING CAPE BRE­TON POST nk­ing@cb­post.com

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


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.

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