Coastal erosion: the cry of the heart of the Islands

Érosion des côtes: le cri du cœur des Madelinots

Photo: Alexander Shields The Duty
The historical area and tourist attractions of The Grave, in the Îles-de-la-Madeleine, is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of coastal erosion, according to mayor Jonathan Lapierre.

The mayor of the Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Jonathan Lapierre, feared for the long-term survival of his community, but also other regions of Quebec hit by coastal erosion. It therefore urges the government Legault significantly increase the resources used to prepare for a worsening of this phenomenon due to the impacts of climate change.

“I run a cry from the heart. It is necessary to protect our territories and infrastructure for the generations that will follow. And for the moment, we do not understand enough of the urgency to act. We expect that extreme events arise to act. But it is necessary to intervene now in the whole of the maritime Quebec, because later, it will be too late, ” he insists, in an interview to the Duty.

“We will evacuate these bases not the Islands tomorrow morning, but there are changes from year to year. And it will continue to worsen. Will it be still possible to live or to come on vacation in the Îles-de-la-Madeleine in 50 years ? “request the elected madelinot.

Mr. Lapierre has also sent Duty a letter in which he cites the example of the storm that hit the archipelago is located in the heart of the gulf of St. Lawrence, on the 29th of November last. “In a single night, entire sections of the dunes, travel plazas, and infrastructure of all sorts have gone to the sea. During this night, the retreat of the coastline provided in the various forecasting models available to date has been the equivalent of several storms in succession, spread over a number of years, ” he wrote.

Accelerated erosion

In fact, the erosion, the Islands, is a phenomenon that never ceases to grow. “Between 2004 and 2016, we recorded an average rate of decline of 50 cm per year. Between 2016 and 2017, we recorded an average rate of 60 cm “, he recalls.

If the trend continues, warns Mr. Lapierre, “are the millions of dollars in infrastructure, which will thus be lost” in the course of the next few years. The provincial highway 199, the only artery to connect the whole archipelago, ” is directly threatened.” The existence of long-term, other areas inhabited and tourist critical of the Îles-de-la-Madeleine is now in suspension.

This worrisome picture is also substantiated by the analyses conducted by the consortium for scientific research Ouranos. “Their situation is quite problematic. It is one of the regions of eastern Québec, which displays the erosion rates the highest, in particular because of the composition of its coasts, ” explains Laurent DaSilva, senior economist at Ouranos.

Even if there is still a scientific analysis to do, we have enough data so that Quebec can develop now a strategy for the management of coastal areas in a climate change context

— Alain Bourque

According to a study on the coastal areas controlled by the consortium, at least 260 buildings would be directly threatened by the erosion by 2065, but also stretches of road that connect the different sectors of the Islands. The researchers have also amounted to several tens of millions of dollars of damage, including economic, that should be three important sectors of the archipelago.

Mr. DaSilva makes clear, however, that this is a conservative estimate, ” since the impacts of climate change may be greater than expected over the next few decades. Everything will depend on the increase in the level of the sea, the extent of the disappearance of the ice cover and the strength of storms “.

High bill

If the Îles-de-la-Madeleine illustrate the magnitude of the problem of coastal erosion, the phenomenon is more serious in other regions of Quebec : Côte-Nord, Gaspésie and Bas-Saint-Laurent. “This is the stake for which we are already witnessing the impacts the most concrete of climate change. This is happening now “, underlines the director general of Ouranos Alain Bourque.

A provincial analysis conducted by the research organization warns, moreover, that in the course of the next few decades, more than 5500 buildings will be directly threatened by the erosion, but also at least 300 km of roads, including sections of routes 132 and 138, vital arteries for the regions through which they pass.


Érosion des côtes: le cri du cœur des Madelinots

Photo: Alexander Shields The Duty
Some portions of the route 132 in the Gaspé peninsula, are particularly vulnerable to coastal erosion along the St. Lawrence river.

Only for these elements, Ouranos has estimated the bill at $ 1.5 billion. But this does not take into account possible damage caused by flooding and impacts on economic activity, particularly tourism, says Laurent DaSilva. “It is an assessment which is, therefore, very conservative. “

National strategy

For the mayor of the Îles-de-la-Madeleine, it is therefore more necessary than ever ” to put in place a permanent working group, with technical and financial resources, to support our municipalities struggling with these daunting challenges “. It is estimated that the 45 million currently devoted to the fight against coastal erosion in Quebec are clearly insufficient. This envelope would even be insufficient if it was only intended for the Islands.

The director general of Ouranos abounds in this sense. “Even if there is still a scientific analysis to do, we have enough data so that Quebec can develop now a strategy for the management of coastal areas in a climate change context. Currently, it continues to manage the problem in “crisis”. But it is necessary to overcome this approach, it is necessary to think of all this at the provincial level, in order to avoid that the problem costs us a few billion dollars over the next 30 years. “

In Quebec, we are assured to take the problem very seriously. “Adaptation to climate change is a facet that is often forgotten in the current debate, but which is of paramount importance. Our government will ensure that adaptation measures are put in place so that the coastal regions and more remote to be able to adequately cope with climate change. It is for the safety of our citizens, ” explains Louis-Julien Dufresne, press attaché to the minister of the Environment, Benoit Charette.

Mr. Dufresne added that funds are already earmarked for various initiatives, including the academic research project ” coastal Resilience “, which ” aims at the development of tools and solutions for adapting to coastal risk by a support to municipalities “.

A committee on soil erosion has also been set up by the regional Office of government coordination of the Îles-de-la-Madeleine, in collaboration with departments and agencies. “A first meeting of this committee is scheduled for the end of February,” says the office of the minister Charette.


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