Augustine Cove/Cape Traverse (AC-CT) Watershed Group in partnership with SSWA and Camp Abegweit took on a hefty project this summer.

We brought in  Helping Nature Heal Inc, volunteers from UPEI Climate Lab, local residents, SSWA staff, BBEMA and several other watershed groups, to build an ‘installation’ to enhance approximately 450′ of shoreline at the camp*. UPEI Climate Lab will continue monitoring the growth of the project in the future through the use of drones.

If you haven’t had an opportunity to visit the site, we recommend you make the trip to the camp and check out our work, both in the woods and along the shoreline.

One of the values of this site is the ability to compare and contrast the effectiveness of hardscaping (using rock to prevent erosion) with a Bio-Engineered shoreline.

Within the woods you will find that dead and leaning trees have been felled and woven into ‘brush walls’ which, as they decay, will feed the newly planted seedlings and wildflowers. They will also hold and store water to be slowly released between rain falls.

The shoreline cliff is an intricately woven structure that will decompose and create soil that nature will build on. This will provide much needed nutrients to seeds and plantings. The ‘angle of repose’ (the slope created by the debris) will deflect the wave action. Otherwise the wave would pound into the cliffs causing soil erosion and trees to fall. This project is a work in progress. We will be constantly adding and building over the next 3-5 years, after which time the shoreline will be self-sufficient.

Stay tuned for a winter/spring announcement of work days and  tour. If you would like to volunteer your time to this project please email SSWA would like to thank Martha Howatt, SSWA’s head volunteer from (ACCT) for bringing this project to life, and all the volunteers who have come out to help, as well as our funding partners; PEI Wildlife Conservation  Fund, Federal Recreational Fisheries Conservation Fund and Greening Spaces.


livingshoreline areial

46°12’37.13″ N  63°35’27.37″ W

Construction of the bio-engineered structure:

This site along the Northumberland Strait is under great environmental stress.  As ice forms in the strait, tides force the ice up onto the banks, the Strait flows to the East pushing the ice along with it. This is the narrowest section of the strait and is therefore under the greatest stress.  The spruce trees along this coast have been killed by bark beetle, the winds break the trees free from the bank, dislodging large sections of earth as they fall into the Northumberland Strait.  The downed trees catch in the winter ice and are drug East along the bank like a bulldozer.  This process has made it nearly impossible for new trees to take root on the constantly disrupted banks.  The purpose of this project is to remove the dead trees before they fall over the bank, and protect the bank with a bioengineered structure which will deflect the ice off the bank, supply nutrients and fresh water allowing the new plants to take root and protect the bank for years to come.

The process begins with cutting of the dead and dying trees, many of which will be used as construction materials for the bio-engineered structure.



Photo #1 trees coming down











Photo #2 – materials are placed in brush piles along the cliff for use during construction











Photo #3 – lots of dead trees to pick from







Site selection:

Camp Abegweit is a community camp which is near and dear to the hearts of many of our volunteers and staff.  The Camp has agreed to partner with SSWA during this project, allow site access for visitation and use the site as an education tool for young campers who will be monitoring and doing maintenance work during the summer months.



46°12’37.13″ N  63°35’27.37″ W

ls5Photo #4 – West beach – the Camp has already been suffering the effects of loosing shoreline do to erosion, recent attempts have been made to protect the shoreline. Hard-scape (the addition of large stone) was added to the west beach to prevent erosion. This has become the most common protocol for bank protection along the PEI coast, but is very costly, requires large equipment working in the buffer zones and is doomed to fail over time as it is just sitting on the bank and does not actually become part of the bank.  As storm surges come in, the waves undermine beneath and behind the rock and is becomes dislodged from the bank.  It also deflects the wave energy to other sections of the bank, actually deferring the damage to new unprotected locations.  SSWA will be using soft-scape as an alternative; it is very useful to have the two protocols side by side as a comparison study as they will be affected by the same environmental factors.





Photo #5 – the East beach – this will be our work site.  SSWA will be covering 450 feet of shoreline with Soft-scape (bioengineered structures composed of compostable materials used to support the growth and rooting of natural salt and wind tolerant plants which will grow, root and protect the bank for years to come)  This will be a 3 – 4 year process of maintaining the structure before it is self sufficient.  Once established, the new shoreline will be self seeding and will fill in areas which will inevitably be damaged during winter storm events.







Photo #6 – a further look down the beach

This process of trees falling off the cliff, being pushed by the winter ice and damaging the banks, continues all along the shoreline.  SSWA will be protecting 450 feet, but using the continuing shoreline as a bench mark to determine the lasting effects of the project.




ls8Photo # 7 & 8 – close up conditions of the banks during our initial assessment stage. Notice how the cliffs have become eroded beneath the tree rootsls9

Construction beings





Photo #9 – approx 400 donanted hay bales, stakes and salt tollerant potted planes are distributed along the shorleine









Photo #10 – work teams have been depositing dead trees collected form the work site above on to the banks









Photo #11 – site is starting to take shape, hay bales are placed on the banks, staked down and tied together with hemp rope.






Photo #12 – Hay bales were also deposed on the upper bank. These will be used to fill in the spaces under the eroded sod and roots.  Logs placed on the banks are interwoven to connect them together, scored lengthwise to break the bark and help them soak up water, and tied with the hemp rope.  Our hired contractors “Helping Nature Heal” opted not to anchor the structure to the bank, as advised.











Photo #13 – upper work crew placing materials over the banks (actually stopping work to watch the drone take pictures, but they were placing stuff over the banks









Photo # 14 – the bulk of the materials have been added to the bank











Photo #15 – close up of the bank









Photo #16 – the hay bales are finished being added and are anchored to the bank








Photo #17 – there is a stark difference form the end of the bioengineer structure and the unprotected bank










Photo #18 – major construction phase is wrapping up











Photo #19 – full beach completed construction phase








Photo #20& 21 ground level views of construction










Update after addition of compostable materials



Final pictures were taken November 25th

ls25 ls26

Volunteers have been returning to site periodicity to add sea weed and green compose to expedite the composing process.



The common method to prevent shoreline erosion is through covering the shoreline with rocks, like so:


This does the job – for a little while. Shores erode because of the force waves exert on them pulls away soil. When waves hit big walls of rock like this, there’s nothing dampening that force; the rocks are just sitting in the way of the soil. After a while of protecting the shore, the pile of stones starts to get dragged down from all the waves hitting them, as can be seen in the above picture.

A living shoreline, however, shouldn’t have this problem. If trees and shrubs are planted in place of rock piles, then those plants can serve as a natural barrier – one that can bend with the impact of waves and repair itself through continued growth. The roots of all the plants will also help in holding all the soil on the shoreline together, sort of like a big organic net.

We learned most of this on Tuesday, when a woman came by to give a presentation to SSWA and several other watershed groups about living shorelines. During the presentation we learned most of what I mentioned in the above paragraphs, as well as an interesting method of creating structures called brush walls.

Someone even found the time to make a sand castle.

Someone even found the time to make a sand castle. Unfortunately it wasn’t us — we would have added a moat.

The goal with brush walls is similar to that of the brush mats we build in streams, but with a focus on collecting compostable material. They are made out of decomposing logs and brush, and are designed to trap and develop into fertile humus. When that happens, trees planted along the brush walls will be able to grow more effectively and help act as organic erosion defence.

That said, here’s some pictures of brush walls being built:

Building walls.

Building walls.

Still building walls.

Still building walls.

Even more wall-building action.

Even more wall-building action.

By the end of the day we had some mighty fine brush walls half-built. The day after we went back at it, this time with the help of some burly chainsaw-wielding men.

Some trees were a little tricky to cut down.

Some trees were a little tricky to cut down.

Mainly because they believed that gravity was optional.

Mainly because they believed that gravity was optional.

We started to wonder if this was going to become a theme.

We started to wonder if this was going to become a theme.

It did.

It did.

But like any problem, it could be solved with chainsaws and rope.

But like any problem, it could be solved with chainsaws, rope, and lots of physical force.

After we finished the brush walls we planted trees.

These trees, specifically.

These trees, specifically.

It looked (exactly) like this:

That sure is what tree planting looks like.

That sure is what tree planting looks like.

we made our way to Camp Abegweit. There, we set about preparing for the living shoreline project that we’ll be working on in the next couple weeks. Preparations consisted mainly of cutting down dead trees and piling up the logs and bramble for use in future brush walls.

These are the brush walls (and trees) that have already been constructed and planted:


That’s some Grade-A brushwall right there, I tell you what.

Also Grade-A.

Also Grade-A.

We also made sure to find the time to water every tree and give them an affectionate pat and/or caress to keep morale high.

“I’m very proud of you, Oaksley.” – Brandon, to a maple tree.

When we lugged as much lumber as could be lugged under optimal lugging parameters, the SSWA crew did a bit of community outreach and used some surplus wood to renovate Camp Abegweit’s fort.

Humble beginnings.

Humble beginnings.

A slightly less humble middle.

A slightly less humble middle.

At this point the fort was stating to get a little cocky.

At this point the fort was stating to get a little cocky.

It grew out of that phase, thankfully. It's still awfully proud of its hallway though.

It grew out of that phase, thankfully. It’s still awfully proud of its hallway though.

The newly christened Fort Abegweit has been rigorously tested and prodded with sticks to ensure that it won’t fall down from the slightest breeze. However, we can’t confirm that it will stand up to anything stronger than that for insurance reasons.

Isn't that right, Tony Jr.?