Foreshore folly – green shore project fails after four months

JAN 21, 2022 – Three days after the king tide of Friday, January 7th damaged a small section of Qualicum Beach’s waterfront, Town Engineer Bob Weir was interviewed on radio by CBC Victoria’s afternoon show, All Points West.

Weir gave scant information about the actual damage to the Town’s seawall and walkway, the reason for the interview. Most of the QB Waterfront walkway remained intact. The real damage was confined to a small section at the eastern edge of the walkway, near the artificial rock spit jutting out into the water, adjoining the recently constructed traffic roundabout.

As one neighbour explained: “The purpose of the rock piles was supposedly to protect the sand and silt that they piled up behind the rocks and atop the pre-existing riprap and retaining wall – the misnamed ‘green shore’ that was anything but green.”

Instead, during the interview on Monday, January 10th, Bob Weir spoke in glowing terms about the “green shores innovation” that Qualicum Beach Council approved last year for a waterfront property on Higson Crescent. Property owners Robert Hodge and Darla Furlani completed the project in September 2021.

Without prompting by the CBC interviewer, Weir introduced the green shores topic. “There’s been a private property where the owner [Hodge] has two side-by-side lots. He’s done a green shores restoration in front of his property and it stood up extremely well. [emphasis added] And his was a very exposed site to that north-west gale.” According to Weir, “certainly the fellow [Hodge] is very happy with it.”

An inspection of the foreshore in front of the Higson property, after the recent king tide, reveals that CBC Radio’s listeners were misled — this much ballyhooed green shores “innovation project” has actually failed.

LISTEN to CBC Victoria Radio interview with QB Town Engineer Bob Weir, January 10, 2022.

Four months after construction, much of the sand and gravel trucked in and dumped here on Qualicum Beach’s foreshore has disappeared. The net end-result of this “green shores” innovation appears to be three new piles of rock a few metres from shore. At least a contractor, Parksville Heavy Equipment, got themselves a plum job in the midst of a pandemic.

What Hodge / Furlani tried to do

Like several adjacent homes, this property has long had a concrete retaining wall fronted by several large rocks commonly referred to as rip-rap. Over time the shoreline had been eroded so that by 2021 the top of the retaining wall was over two metres above the gravel shoreline.

This diagram shows what the engineers designed for the owners, with much cheerleading from Town planner Luke Sales and engineer Bob Weir.

Higson Crescent plan.

Starting at the north end (right edge) of the above diagram, the rock pile is actually three separate berms spanning the 50-metre frontage of the two lots. A few more large rip-rap rocks were added in front of the retaining wall. Many tons of gravel and sand were apparently dumped on top, sloped as shown in the diagram.

We say apparently because, well, four months later much of the sand and gravel has disappeared. This photo taken by neighbours, of a deer striding up the incline of the finished project (circa September 2021), shows what it looked like — ever so fleetingly.

Why did the Higson green shores construction fail?

One obvious flaw in the design was the unstable east and west edges of the bank of transplanted sand and gravel that were dumped on the shore (wiping out the underlying marine ecosystems). According to neighbours in the area, these edges were quite steep, and fully exposed. That is because the owners have no license to occupy any of the foreshore in front of their neighbours. So, naturally, wave and tidal energy immediately began to erode this loose gravel/sand bank from the sides.

Neighbours report that within a month of its construction, the erosion was already well underway. Notice in the photo taken in late September, 2021, the original rip-rap at the west edge of the property, that had been completely covered by sand and gravel only a few weeks earlier, was already exposed.

Higson Crescent green shores project already failing, less than a month after completion.

As one neighbour explained: “The purpose of the rock piles was supposedly to protect the sand and silt that they piled up behind the rocks and atop the pre-existing riprap and retaining wall – the misnamed ‘green shore’ that was anything but green.”

Back to square one – January 2022.

And in this photo taken January 12, 2022, the original rip-rap and retaining wall, once completely covered, are now completely exposed. The little remaining gravel continues to erode, leading back to square one. Except for three unnatural and ugly piles of imported rock now littering the foreshore (not shown in the photo).

King tide was the least of the problems with this “innovative” project

The latest king tide did hasten the predictable erosion, but not significantly. This section of beachfront faces slightly north-east, so winds from the north-west (as experienced with the high tide in the first week of January 2022) arrive at an angle.

This outcome was not unexpected, especially by area residents, who reportedly cautioned Sales, Weir and ex-CAO Sailland but were ignored and scorned.

Some residents are surprised at how quickly the green shores artifice has washed away. As one stated: “Even I figured it would take a few years, not a few months, for it to wash away to this point. This can only be considered an abysmal failure of engineering.”

Previous stories published by Second Opinion QB about plans to alter the foreshore in front of the property at 217 / 221 Higson Crescent can be found starting with the article Messin’ with QB’s Waterfront… again?