Approximately $60 million in capital is required to implement a scientific and comprehensive solution to the coastal erosion problem at Pigeon Point and Milford Bay.
Secretary of Infrastructure, Quarries and the Environment (DIQE) Kwesi DesVignes made the assessment on Wednesday as he responded to the damage caused earlier this week by huge waves which pounded the coastlines.
Normally pristine and serene, Store Bay and Pigeon Point beaches have been deserted for most of the week as sea bathers heeded the rough seas warning by the the Met Office. The dangerous conditions, caused by a cyclone in the Atlantic Ocean, is expected to continue until November 4.
In a press release on Wednesday, DesVignes said the DIQE's intervention would include geo-technical studies and modelling, relocation of buildings and the installation of a blend of both hard and soft engineering techniques.
“The Coastal Zone Management Unit (CZMU) takes note that current prolonged sea swell events originating in the Northern Atlantic Ocean have severely affected businesses in Pigeon Point, in particular, and environs.
“According to the Unit, coastal erosion has accelerated in these areas and the current event is not an isolated or unique event. In response the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) has commenced emergency stop-gap measures and other infrastructural works. This is in an effort to arrest the impacts of prevailing wind and wave action at Pigeon Point, thereby mitigating further damage to businesses in the area.”
The division said with the support of the Tobago Emergency Management Agency (TEMA), a 100 feet tube dam was installed at the Pigeon Point Heritage Park, where the damage is most prominent.
Adding that, the DIQE is in the process of installing a near-shore temporary wave breakwater system comprised of varying grades of andesite armoured rock in the area.
“In recognition of the importance this current area plays to Tobago’s tourism image, the CZMU initiated a process for the expansion of a 2013 coastal modelling and study of Pigeon Point to now include Milford Bay.
“A conceptual design for the area is the main output for this undertaking. Four million dollars was allocated for Coastal Zone Management Programme for fiscal 2020. Yet, the DIQE remains committed to securing the interests of those affected, balanced with the need to minimise the negative impact of measures on the sensitive marine environment and adjacent sections of the coastline.”
On Monday, the coastline was battered as rough seas and high tides damaged parts of the roadway leading to the park. Up to Wednesday, some businesses remained closed as the dangerous seas alert remained in effect.
Speaking with Newsday on Wednesday, TEMA’s Director Allan Stewart noted that a “collaboration response” to the situation was ongoing.
“We are looking to see what can be done to mitigate against further erosion and the effects to the premises of those persons who are operating in the area,” he said.
Stewart said on Tuesday evening, the agency was able to deploy 100 feet of flood defence tube along the beach, extending along the shoreline beginning at Renmars restaurant and bar, inside the Heritage Park.
“It worked last night (Tuesday)… we would monitor it again around 4pm when another high tide situation is expected. We would continue to monitor to see how the deployment of this tube defence is working.
“Also, I know technical staff from the DIQE has started work towards looking at a medium-term to a long-term process as to how they can build a type of defence to prevent the erosion that we are seeing.”
Every year during periods of rough seas, high tide causes water to enter businesses, bringing along sand and debris, as well as causing some structural damages and beachfront erosion. Now, they are calling on the THA to implement measures to halt the damage to the shoreline.
Stewart is advising the business owners to pay attention and equip themselves with the right information.
“They need to allow themselves to be communicated to…they need to take heed where there is issuance of storms or rough seas bulletin to take the necessary steps to protect their assets. Also businesses, persons who choose to take the risks of conducting business on the seafront must understand that coastal erosion is very, very real as it relates to climate change and therefore it is our strong advice that going forward they will have to invest in a way that will protect their investments,” Stewart said adding that to-date, the agency has received report of one boat being damaged along with no more than five structural damages to businesses, as well as the Pigeon Point jetty.
One fisherman, Kester Herbert told Newsday that his pirogue suffered severe damage as the vessel after it hit a rock. The engine was also damaged.
On Monday, the TT Met Service advised sea bathers, fishermen, and small craft operators to monitor nearshore coastal sea conditions and exercise caution along affected areas.