Road washout in Ingonish concerns residents as fall weather approaches

·3 min read
Construction crews work on a portion of road in the Cape Breton Highlands. Still Brook runs under a stretch of the Cabot Trail between Ingonish and Neils Harbour.  (Matthew Moore - image credit)
Construction crews work on a portion of road in the Cape Breton Highlands. Still Brook runs under a stretch of the Cabot Trail between Ingonish and Neils Harbour. (Matthew Moore - image credit)

Recent road washouts and closures in Ingonish have some residents concerned that roadways and ditches are not prepared for downpours as fall weather approaches.

This comes after a section of the Cabot Trail in Victoria County was closed last week after heavy rain caused a washout at a culvert construction detour site.

Ninety millimetres of rain fell in four hours.

The area affected was one that flooded previously and washed out during last November's severe rainstorms that caused millions of dollars in damage.

Parks Canada
Parks Canada

Parks Canada is responsible for portions of road within Highlands National Park.

Crews have spent the last eight months repairing roads and rebuilding culverts to ensure flooding won't happen again in those areas.

Despite their efforts, Still Brook overflowed and washed out a portion of the road that was still under construction.

"It's kind of hard to believe that the power of nature could rip through here the way it did," said Parks Canada acting superintendent Erich Muntz.

"The structures that we had in place at that time just weren't able to handle that huge volume of water that came down in such a short period of time. And now we're trying to fix the fix."

Two closures in one week

The road was closed overnight Thursday between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Crews removed last week's temporary repair and made it more resilient to potential storms, but Muntz said this second fix is temporary and more work is required.

Once they are able to build permanent culverts, they will be significantly larger than the previous ones, and will allow for fish and debris to pass through easier.

"We do have a tight window here," he said. "We're acting quickly and getting this work done as soon as we can."

Matthew Moore
Matthew Moore

Ruth Daisley lives on Doucette Road, which is maintained by the province.

A brook near her house gets blocked by debris from the mountain, including rocks, trees and branches.

She's complained about the waterway and culverts near the house for years, and she doesn't think they are up to the challenge of the next storm.

"If more stuff comes down the hill from off the mountain … we'll be in trouble again," Daisley said.

Daisley has expressed to the Department of Highways that ditches need to be cleared in the area. "They know me really well," she said.

Last week's heavy rainfall reminded her of the big storm last November that flooded her basement.

"There was nothing you could do," she said. "If another flood comes, I hope we die before it," she said with a laugh.

Matthew Moore
Matthew Moore

Larry Dauphinee, Victoria County municipal councillor, said the province has done some repairs, but residents don't think it's enough.

"We're always concerned after last year," he said.

"We've had repairs but a lot of people refer to them as Band-Aid repairs," Dauphinee said. "We still notice some of the shoulders are being washed out with rain, still."

Work is underway

At a recent council meeting, Dauphinee asked all levels of government to invest in the Cabot Trail before its 100th anniversary is celebrated in 2032.

The province said it has been upgrading and improving infrastructure with climate change readiness in mind.

"We are also working to ensure we have spare culverts and pre-built temporary bridges on hand to react to severe storms and storm surges when they impact our existing infrastructure," acting Public Works Minister Allan MacMaster said in a statement.

MacMaster said road work has been ongoing along the Cabot Trail, including the Upper Middle River Bridge and detour route, a stabilization project in Tarbotvale, and 12 kilometres of pavement preservation from Route 312 to Little River Road.