HARNESSING THE CORNWALLIS RIVER TIDES (December 2/14)

With ocean levels rising, many communities along the Cornwallis River are definitely at risk, Kings North MLA John Lohr said in a recent column in this paper.

Lohr singled out Kentville, Port Williams and Meadowview as areas of concern, but he could have added that communities along the Habitant River, the Pereau River and the general area from Grand Pre and inland to the westward are at risk as well.

In fact, any communities, villages and towns along the edge of Minas Basin and along tributaries that run into the Basin will be affected one way or another by rising ocean levels.  Look at Wolfville, for example.  While high running dykes now protect the town, how long will they be effective when sea levels rise and we have sure-to-come storm surges?

John Lohr suggests that way one to tackle the problem of future flooding in his riding is to look at building a great aboiteau across the mouth of the Cornwallis River at Port Williams.  This is a good idea and it has been seriously considered before.  The concept of building an aboiteau near the mouth of the Cornwallis River was examined at least twice in years back; while sparsely documented, government records indicate some serious thinking went into building this aboiteau.

In 1912, for example, government records show that an “Act to Incorporate the Cornwallis Aboiteau Company” was passed on May 3.  The Act stated that the “general object and purpose’ of the Cornwallis Aboiteau Company was to construct an aboiteau across the Cornwallis River at Port Williams.  The aboiteau would replace the current bridge and control the river’s twice daily tides, at the same time creating many acres of upriver dykeland.

If I read government records correctly, public funding would have been available to build the aboiteau.  The Company incorporated by the Act had as its officer at least 10 of the more prominent citizens of Kings County as shareholders, all of whom were investing in the aboiteau.

Looking back over a century later, we know the aboiteau was never constructed.  The reason why is unknown.

A similar scheme was proposed even earlier.  Government records indicate that in 1865 an Act was passed to “provide for building an aboiteau across the Cornwallis River” at Port Williams.  The Act read that the Commissioner of Sewers for Kings County was authorised to “build and erect an aboiteau,” but it’s obvious from our viewpoint today that nothing was done.

Getting back to John Lohr’s proposal, he mentions as well the possibility of constructing an aboiteau from Starr’s Point to Wolfville.  It may surprise everyone that this idea was also considered more than a century ago, around 1865.  The Statutes of Nova Scotia for that year indicate an aboiteau was proposed across the mouth of the Cornwallis River. In his Kings County history, Arthur W. H. Eaton, quoting an earlier historian, says that the aboiteau would run from the “old French fort at Starr’s Point.”

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