Wash­ing away

A new study shows coastal ero­sion for 2014 was sig­nif­i­cantly higher than pre­vi­ous years, ac­cord­ing to Univer­sity of Prince Ed­ward Is­land’s Cli­mate Re­search Lab

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY MAU­REEN COUL­TER

Prince Ed­ward Is­land is crum­bling away — and at a faster rate than ex­pected.

A grad­u­ate stu­dent at the Univer­sity of Prince Ed­ward Is­land, Andy MacDon­ald, went around the prov­ince to 70 dif­fer­ent coastal sites over the sum­mer, mea­sur­ing and gath­er­ing data for the univer­sity’s Cli­mate Re­search Lab.

The find­ings showed the Is­land lost an av­er­age of 46 cen­time­tres of coast­line in 2014, which is a hike from the av­er­age 28 cm in losses recorded in pre­vi­ous years.

“It was sig­nif­i­cantly higher than what we ex­pected,” said MacDon­ald.

An­other find­ing showed that nine of the sites saw no change, while five had losses of more than two me­tres.

The five sites with the high­est recorded ero­sion were Pan­mure Is­land, Wood Is­lands Light­house, Naufrage Light­house, Seav­iew and Gov­er­nor’s Is­land. In the past, the pro­vin­cial govern­ment mea­sured ero­sion loss with aerial pho­tos taken ev­ery 10 years. Based on this process, the av­er­age amount of coastal ero­sion was 28 cen­time­tres a year.

Adam Fenech’s re­search team of as­so­ciates and grad­u­ate stu­dents mea­sured coastal ero­sion with marker pins in the ground to pro­vide new an­nual data.

MacDon­ald said they have added ap­prox­i­mately 30 more new sites, which will give a more com­plete pic­ture of the ero­sion loss of the Is­land.

“We don’t have the en­tire Is­land cov­ered,” said MacDon­ald. “We are go­ing to im­prove it as it moves for­ward by adding more sites. The more data we get, the more ac­cu­rate the to­tal will be.”

While gath­er­ing data, MacDon­ald had a chance to speak to peo­ple who live near the shore­line who were in­ter­ested in this pro­ject.

“Ev­ery place I vis­ited, I would have a lo­cal come and talk to me be­cause they are so in­ter­ested in the topic. They want to know what to ex­pect in terms of losses from year to year.”

MacDon­ald said a lot of peo­ple told him they were mea­sur­ing coastal ero­sion them­selves for their own in­for­ma­tion.

The am­a­teur ob­ser­va­tions seemed to be con­sis­tent with the cli­mate lab’s find­ings.

“If you have prop­erty close to the shore, and you are not pre­pared for the changes, it can be a lot to deal with.”

Pre­vi­ous stud­ies by the Cli­mate Re­search Lab showed vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties not just to coastal homes and cot­tages, but road­ways and some of the Is­land’s very iconic light­houses.

The best method of de­fence is shore­line ar­mour­ing, but it car­ries an ex­pen­sive price tag and there is still land loss even with that in place.

MacDon­ald said this study pro­vides some good in­for­ma­tion and aware­ness for Is­lan­ders with prop­er­ties close to the shore­line.

“The more in­for­ma­tion that home­own­ers can have the bet­ter,” said MacDon­ald.

“If you are con­sid­er­ing buy­ing prop­erty close to the shore, I think just a lit­tle bit of re­search is wise.”

STEVE SHAR­RATT/THE GUARDIAN

Light­house man­ager Bev Ste­wart kneels to the power of a vigourous wind while try­ing to demon­strate how close the cliff edge is get­ting to the Wood Is­lands light­house that was moved fur­ther in­land only seven years ago.

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