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Erin council receives dam update from CVC

by Olivia Rutt

ERIN - Dams in the Town of Erin are still at risk, according to Credit Valley Conservation officials.

During the CVC budget presentation on Dec. 12, John Sinnige, senior manager of water resources and flood risk, updated Erin council on the state of dams in the area.

Sinnige said a majority of the large dams were built between the mid 1800s and early 1900s and do not meet today’s standards.

He said the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) is responsible for private dam regulations, however the ministry, CVC and town typically cannot force dam owners to bring their property into compliance.

Yet dam owners can be charged for damage to fish habitat as a result of dam failure and can have civil action taken against them if damages occur as a result of their actions or inaction.

According to a 2005 assessment of dams in the Credit Valley watershed, there are 118 minor dams and nine major dams in the Town of Erin.

The study found that many of the structures are “aging or are in disrepair where significant maintenance is required.”

Sinnige gave updates on most of the major dams identified in the study:

- Hillsburgh/Station Street dam, owned by the County of Wellington and the Town of Erin, is currently undergoing an environmental assessment;

- Ainsworth dam, privately owned, under evaluation;

- Rudd dam, privately owned, decommissioned;

- Thomson Lake dam, privately owned, repairs waiting MNRF approval;

- Roman Lake dams, both privately owned and are offline;

- Stanley Park dam, privately owned, offline;

- Church Street (Hulls) dam, owned by Town of Erin; and

- Charles Street dam, privately owned.

Sinnige also discussed CVC’s confidential 2011 draft West Credit dam study.

“In 2011, when some new issues were identified with the dam and outlet, we wanted to evaluate the magnitude of the risks associated with the failure of the Station Street dam,” he said.

“We have limited information because some of them are private dams, so we had to make some assumptions due to the timeline and property access issues.

“But based on that preliminary assessment, we concluded that there was a possibility that all ponds in Hillsburgh and Erin could be breached due to a cascade effect.”

He said the study was given to the MNRF, which then required further assessments and actions.  

Sinnige added the town is required to do its due diligence with the safe operation and monitoring of public dams.

Councillor Rob Smith asked if fixing the Church Street (Hulls) dam would reduce the risk of failure for downstream dams.

“If you made the first one better, it would improve things ... let’s say you fixed Station Street (dam), it was improved, you’ve just decreased your liability too because of potential impacts to all the dams downstream,” said Sinnige.

He added dam failure may happen more frequently due to weather and the age of the structures.

“I do get asked the questions sometimes, is this a result of climate change, and honestly I don’t know ... but what I can say is that there is a consensus that these types of storms are going to be happening more and more,” said Sinnige.

December 29, 2017


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