Waterfront remediation — unintended consequences + taxpayer liability?

Controversy continues to surround a proposed project on the waterfront at the western edge of town. Residents of Coquitlam, Craig Hodge and Darla Furlani, in addition to constructing a large replacement house on two adjacent properties at 217 / 221 Higson Crescent, are planning a major “shoreline remediation” of the foreshore (provincial Crown Land).

Eroded shoreline at 217 / 221 Higson Crescent, Qualicum Beach, BC.

Citizens of Qualicum Beach have an opportunity to voice their concerns about this proposed project to the Province of BC before December 18, 2020.

What’s wrong with the foreshore?

To find out, this correspondent joined about 20 other interested observers to walk this section of foreshore in June 2020. The show-and-tell was organized and led by proponents of Green Shores, a new — and as yet unproven — approach to waterfront management.

The tour organizers explained the history that led to the consequences on display now. A few decades ago, the owners of this waterfront property decided that, rather than enjoy a natural saltwater beach as their front yard, they wanted a level, raised, manicured grass lawn. So, they installed a retaining wall to keep the sea from disturbing their patch of grass. The consequences are plainly evident today.

The waves, whose energy would normally dissipate onto the shore, instead came to an abrupt halt at the retaining wall, which then reflected the wave energy directly back into the ocean, scouring away the disturbed sand and gravel at the base of the retaining wall. Deflected water and wave energy could also move sideways, thereby eroding adjacent properties. So then, the neighbours also built retaining walls, and dumped loads of riprap to protect their land from erosion caused by their neighbour’s retaining wall. Consequently, and quite predictable in hindsight, a long stretch of existing sand and gravel beach completely eroded, dropping the foreshore at this location by about TEN FEET (three metres) vertically. This apparently is a far greater alteration than could be attributed solely to the natural erosion and accretion that occur on shoreline in this area.

The proposed “Pocket Beach and Control Structures” will require 1,200 tonnes of gravel beach fill and 670 tonnes of rock armour for three headland structures and to raise-up the beach (by as much as 2 to 3m) along the foreshore.

Ironically, apparently not having learned the lessons of the past, i.e. don’t mess with Mother Nature, this latest gang of tinkerers is proposing yet another aggressive disruption to the natural behaviour of the Salish Sea where it meets our waterfront. Their solution? Build more crude, man-made obstacles in the path of the waves, but only out in front of the one property. This proposed “solution” has been endorsed (forced?) by Qualicum Beach administrative staff and elected Council.

If this project proceeds, and there are unintended consequences that cause hardship or harm to neighbouring properties, will the Town (and we taxpayers) be liable for damages?

Province of BC accepting public input regarding this application to alter QB foreshore

The provincial government is currently reviewing whether or not to approve a License of Occupation of foreshore that would permit the massive alteration of the shoreline fronting the Hodge/Furlani property.

The Qualicum Beach Residents Association (QBRA) recently issued a broadcast e-mail to remind residents of QB that they have an opportunity to let the provincial government know if they approve or disapprove of the application to alter the public foreshore, and to present any concerns and potential implications they believe might arise should this application be approved. An excerpt of the QBRA email is presented below.

Technical details of the plan submitted to the Province of BC can be found at https://comment.nrs.gov.bc.ca/applications — search for file #1415041. The Hodge/Furlani application included this Environmental Assessment prepared by the Aquaparian Environmental Consulting firm, and paid for by Hodge/Furlani.

The QB Planning Department’s analysis, including letters from adjacent property owners strongly objecting to the proposal, were provided to Council as part of the Town Council’s approval process — see the May 13, 2020 Council Meeting agenda.

The QBRA’s comments and concerns [verbatim, including their emphasis]

“If this application for occupation of the foreshore is approved, how will it affect the neighbouring properties and those who walk the beach? Will approval of this development stand as a precedent that ultimately reshapes our Qualicum Beach beachfront?

“On May 13, 2020, Town Council approved a Development Permit for 217 & 221 Higson Crescent for a foreshore improvement to replace a hard seawall with a more natural beach profile.  
“The Town’s Waterfront Master Plan does favour ‘Green Shore Projects’. However, it states the Town will encourage groups of property owners to work together on shoreline adaptation. Should not the Town be leading a discussion with ALL waterfront property owners – from Higson Crescent to Judges Row? The experts think so. The following is taken from SNC-LAVALIN’s submission to the Town of Qualicum Beach (page 13 of [SNC-Lavalin’s response to] the Qualicum Beach Waterfront Master Plan [Request for Proposals]). …”The coastline is a dynamic boundary between the marine and terrestrial environments and no one component of the transitional zone can be analyzed independent of the other. Therefore, analysis will be conducted for 12 – 13 km of shoreline from the outlet of the Little Qualicum River to the west to the outlet of French Creek in the east and will include the nearshore, beach and, at a minimum, 50 m of the backshore. These will provide a meaningful unit for geomorphic analysis that captures the role of fluvial sediment supply, human impacts and coastal processes in the shoreline trends in QB.

Doing this piecemeal and encroaching on public land is less than ideal.

“Despite receiving public input comprised of 22 submissions, (20 of which were from neighbours strongly opposing the project; the other two were from the consultant and the applicant/owner), Council approved the Development Permit contingent upon unobstructed pedestrian access across the foreshore at high tide.  The proposed “Pocket Beach and Control Structures” will require 1,200 tonnes of gravel beach fill and 670 tonnes of rock armour for three headland structures and to raise-up the beach (by as much as 2 to 3m) along the foreshore. As far as the public is aware, an independent review or analysis by a Coastal Geomorphologist as to how this will impact the rest of the foreshore (due to diverted wave and current action) has not been done. Also, do we know how will this impact fish habitat?

“More information about the application is available at: https://comment.nrs.gov.bc.ca/applications#splash

 “Your written comments concerning this application should be directed to: “Land Officer, South Island Natural Resource District, Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, 4885 Cherry Creek Road, Port Alberni, BC, V9Y 8E9, or emailed to: Annette.Bailey@gov.bc.ca. The deadline is December 18, 2020.

“Be advised that any responses will be considered part of the public record.”

The December 18, 2020 deadline, which was in a tiny FLNRORD notice in a local paper conflicts with their website that suggests public input can be submitted up to December 26, 2020. We suggest three things – stick with December 18 as the deadline, avoid snail mail at this time of year, and ask for confirmation from Ms. Bailey that your e-mail submission has been received.