DIGBY — Digby Harbour’s first breakwater is nearing completion.

The full length of the 300-metre-long breakwater has been reached and additional material is being added to the top and sides.

“There’s three layers that make up a breakwater,” said Jeff Sunderland, project manager for the Digby Port Association.

A core of relatively fine rock is laid, followed by a heavier layer with football- to beach ball-sized rocks.

Armour stone is the final phase and is now being applied. Armour stone is the term for huge boulders weighting several tonnes apiece.

“The largest of the rocks have been (placed) right out on the very end which have been four to six tonnes per boulder.”

Some smaller armour stone boulders are one to two tonnes each, said Sunderland.

The first two layers are finished and the armour stone is now 80 per cent complete, he said.

The project has about 150,000 tonnes of material in place.

The goal is to have 175,000 tonnes in position by the time work is complete.

Fishermen have noticed how the harbour is better protected, Sunderland said.

“In the portions that have been completed,” the breakwater has already made a noticeable difference in protecting boats from the nor’easters this winter.”

In 2010, a big nor’easter caused extensive wharf damage and plans for a breakwater were soon underway.

Other wharf improvements include a floating slip system. The floating wharfs are at full capacity with 64 boats, said Sunderland.

Aluminum gangways connect the floating docks to the main wharf.

The wharf can hold about 82 boats including those tied to the main wharf.

“We had a stretch last fall when we were up over 90 vessels,” said Sunderland.

The wharf is a busy place, he said.

Scallop and lobster fleets account for most of the boats.

Lobster boats fish in two districts, resulting in activity nine months of the year, while scallop fleets are active year-round.

A wooden crib component still must be installed to the breakwater’s outside wall. The crib will be filled with rocks and will provide maximum protection at low tide.

Ottawa paid for 100 per cent of the wharf and harbour improvements, totalling $7.4 million. The breakwater alone cost $4 million, Sunderland said.

Work on the breakwater began last April.

The association purchased the wharf at the end of 2007 for $1.2 million, with loans from Ottawa to be repaid over 15 years.

The town of Digby and the neighbouring rural Municipality of the District of Digby each gave $50,000 to the new owners.

The wharf had previously been privately owned and was bought for a dollar in 1999 after divestiture.

Fishermen soon began complaining that the wharf was fast becoming dangerous and was falling apart with little evidence of any repairs being done.