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Quebec homeowners say Ottawa must deal with decades of erosion caused by ship traffic

Article author:

The Canadian Press

Canadian news agency

Morgan Lowrie

Angelique Beauchemin looks at the erosion on her property on the shore of the St. Lawrence River, in Verchères, Que., Monday, June 20, 2022.
Angelique Boschmann erodes See on Monday, June 20, 2022, on her property on the banks of the St. Lawrence River in Vercher.Photographer Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press

Verscher, Que. — Every year, 100-year-old Angelique Beauchemin watches her land collapse into the St. Lawrence River.

From her home on the bustling river of Vercher on the South Shore of Montreal, waves from a passing ship collide with a rock wall at the bottom of her property. I'm looking at She wipes out chunks and eats unprotected banks from below.

She said that the higher parts of her land sank an inch or two a year because of the steeper slope towards the river. Although she is not a scientist, she says her greatest fear is that one day a landslide will occur and the white house on the top of the hill where she has lived for decades will collapse.

"It could go completely," she said in her recent interview.

Despite her age, with the help of her cane, she wore her straw hat and sunglasses and made a steep hike down the slope to the river. At the bottom of

, she pointed to where the water has carved a bay on the shore since her last visit.

"This is even worse than before," she said. "It's not a relief."

According to Beauchemin, the area under the wall was a small sandy beach where people could swim. Now she feels the rest of the rock walls and the remains of the concrete sidewalks that the inhabitants were able to wander from town to town were washed away by the end of summer.

Beauchemin is part of a group of people living in towns along the South Shore of Montreal, the effects of coastal erosion, which they say are affecting animals and vegetation and damaging land. We are asking the federal government to counter this.

The culprit is a wave from a large ship passing through a narrow area of ​​St. Lawrence, devouring a rock wall and pulling away a cloudy soil vortex with ripples.

Micheline Lagarde, chairman of the Residents' Committee formed in 2019, said the federal government built erosion prevention infrastructure along rivers in the 1960s and 1970s. I'm pulling out an old article showing.

However, the federal program that funded the maintenance of the wall was eventually reduced and completely abolished in 1997. Since then, she said the walls have continued to collapse.

In an interview in her kitchen overlooking the river, Lagarde said that people felt "totally abandoned" in the face of ongoing property damage.

"It's like no one wants to take responsibility," she said.

Lagarde said she had united the inhabitants to form a civic committee after she lobbyed parliamentarians for years. Since then, they have lobbied further, went to Ottawa, submitted 2,300 signed petitions, and tried to meet then-Minister of Transport, Marc Garneau, but failed.

According to Lagarde, building or repairing retaining walls yourself requires professional contractors and engineers, estimated at $ 5,000 to $ 6,000 per meter. It costs dollars, so it's almost impossible for a homeowner to build or repair it himself. The entire property can reach hundreds of thousands of dollars. She said that even if they wanted, the St. Lawrence River is under state and federal jurisdiction and may not even be granted permission.

Last week, Lagarde and Commission member Diane Lagarde took the Canadian Press to visit several facilities in Vercheres and nearby Contrecoeur, Kenya. They pointed out lost trees and other vegetation, shed land masses, collapsed concrete and rock retaining walls.

John Masserey's house is about 9 meters from the water and was held down from the river by a 9-foot-high metal sheet pile wall built in the 1960s. There is a lawn.

Last week, Massery walked along the base, pointing out a rusty place where water began to seep. One side of the wall is fixed with a concrete base, about half of which is eroded, and the other side is fixed with an angled bar for digging grass.

"When they fail and the sheet piles are gone, the house is no longer habitable," he said.

When Massery wrote a letter to the federal government almost 30 years ago suggesting that the base was deteriorating due to the effects of waves from ship traffic, he said about sheet piles. Expressed concern. According to a response from the Canadian Coast Guard in 1993, there was no federal funding for the restoration.

Masserey and Beauchemin are Varennes, Que. , Vercheres, on behalf of the residents of Contrecoeur, participated in a class action proceeding against the federal government. The benefits have not yet been heard, but the $ 50 million lawsuit alleges that owners have experienced exacerbations of erosion beyond what occurs in the natural process of ships.

The Department of Transport said in a statement that it was aware of the erosion problem in the region and was tracking the problem with other partners.

"The federal government provided funding to build a protection structure in the 1960s to protect banks. The program has since ended."

The Ministry of Transport is to mitigate the effects of waves generated by vessels, such as issuing navigation notifications based on water level, monitoring vessel speeds, and implementing voluntary deceleration measures enforced in 2000. Said that he had taken the measures. The

department also stated that erosion is not only due to ships, but also to "natural factors" such as ice, wind and tides.

"These issues are outside the scope of the Ministry of Transport's authority, so the department does not have the program or funding to address coastal erosion associated with these factors," the department said. Responsible for states and cities.

Lagarde said he did not oppose the class action proceedings, but hopes the issue will be resolved amicably.

She wants to meet with the Federal Minister of Environment and Transport on repairing collapsing walls and work with scientists to come up with new eco-friendly ways to combat erosion.

This report by Canadian Press was first published on June 26, 2022.

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