A MONSTER DYKE IN THE MINAS BASIN (February 16/15)

In a review of an opinion piece by Kings North MLA John Lohr on rising ocean levels, I noted that at least twice in earlier times plans were made to build a giant aboiteau on the Cornwallis River.

In his article, Mr. Lohr noted that communities along the Cornwallis River were at risk due to ocean levels rising.  Lohr suggested that one possible way to cope with this future problem was to construct an aboiteau across the mouth of the Cornwallis.  As mentioned in my review, historical records tells us such an aboiteau was considered in 1865 and again in 1912.

On both occasions the idea of a Cornwallis River aboiteau was dropped, likely because at the time there was no real need for something of this nature.  Mr. Lohr’s suggestion that the aboiteau be considered near Port Williams echoes what was looked at before.  Both the 1865 and 1912 proposals re an aboiteau suggested constructing it downriver or at Port Williams.  No records exist showing where in 1912 a proposed aboiteau would be situated – where it would start and end – but the 1865 plan had Starr’s Point as the beginning for it.  This is what Mr. Lohr mentions as well.

You may wonder why I’m reviewing Lohr’s aboiteau proposal and the history behind it.  The reason is this:  After more digging, I discovered research I had done years ago on the Cornwallis River aboiteau, research I had forgotten about.  The research turned up a grand scheme for dykeing in Minas Basin, dykeing that would prevent future flooding, not only on the Cornwallis River but on the Gaspereau, Habitant and Pereau as well and at the same time reclaim some 6,000 acres of land from the sea.

Basically the scheme was to construct a dyke (undoubtedly with an aboiteau included) extending out into Minas Basin for almost nine miles.  In 1878 a gentleman from Dublin, Ireland, proposed just such a scheme.  Christopher Graham’s idea was to construct a zigzagging sea wall starting at Boot Island to a point just north of the Pereau River.  The plan was to run the dyke north from the Boot into Minas Basin for about three miles, then westerly towards Kingsport for about a mile and a half and north again for close to four miles before reaching landfall.

Picture this giant sea wall in your mind if you can;  and then picture a smaller dyke that would lie inside the nine-mile sea wall, said lesser dyke to run from the Long Island/Boot Island area to Kingsport.  This was all part of Graham’s proposal and there are documents in the Registry of Deeds in Kentville with all the details.  Actually the scheme was first proposed in 1878 and again in 1895, the first as mentioned by Graham, the second by a Hants County engineer named William Robert Butler.

When the proposal to build the Minas Basin dyke was proposed newspapers had a field day laughing it down.  It does seem like a hare brained scheme; however, the government of the day apparently liked the scheme got behind it by granting Graham and later Butler sole possession of land that would be reclaimed by their giant sea walls.

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