Council, staff leery about CVC’s river management strategy

Councillors and staff members here are op­posed to Credit Valley Conser­vation’s river management strategy – and specifically a pro­vision that would require the town to spend almost $11.7-million over the next 50 years to retro-fit its existing storm­water systems.
“The bottom line is that there needs to be a total rethink of the [initiative],” Erin’s water superintendent Frank Smedley told council recently.
The goal of the CVC strategy is to improve the current con­dition of the Credit River as new development continues, Smed­ley said.
Specifically, the CVC wants to increase the amount of water available to replenish ground water aqui­fers and decrease the amount of river flooding after major storms. To do that, the CVC proposes using seeper pits, rain gardens, infiltration ditches (which require narrower streets), and permeable pavement.
“The CVC also plans on municipalities retrofitting ex­isting deficient stormwater systems so that a target of infiltrating 15% of the stormwater will be met,” Smedley said in a re­port to council.
That would require Erin to spend $11,681,798 to retro-fit its systems over the next 50 years – or $233,636 annually.
Councillor Ken Chapman said by his calculations, that would mean raising town taxes seven to eight per cent just to come up with that money.
“I’m just concerned that over the years the CVC just ­does what it wants to do,” Chapman said, adding the conservation authority regularly raises fees despite the complaints of municipalities.
If the CVC gets the power to force municipalities to comply with its stormwater plans, the town would be “in quite a spot,” he added.
Mayor Rod Finnie said he does not think the town would retro-fit anything unless such a move was thoroughly investigated – and the town is aware of any possible benefits.
Finnie said Smedley has brought up some very good points and he suggested the water superintendent’s comments be forwarded to CVC officials so they are aware of the impact their decisions could have on municipalities.
Councillor Barb Tocher suggested Smedley’s comments also be forwarded to CVC member municipalities, and the rest of council agreed that is a good idea.
According to Smedley, in addition to the huge retro-fitting cost to the town, the CVC’s plan has many possible technical problems, including:
– increased contaminants in the groundwater;
– plugging of infiltration structures by snow and ice;
– increased frost heaving, which could be very damaging to pavement and foundations;
– increased break-up of pavement if permeable pavement is used;
– higher levels of mold in damp basements, resulting from flooding associated with higher groundwater levels;
– “extremely high” maintenance costs;
– costly soil investigations and reports to ensure infiltration systems are operating properly; and
– increased risk of West Nile virus because of standing water in infiltration systems.
Smedley suggested there are things that can be done to improve the current system of catch basins, storm sewers, and stormwater ponds, at a much lower price tag than that called for by the CVC strategy.
“We need to look at why we are doing this and who will it benefit,” Smedley said in his report. “If this is to allow additional development, then the developers should be paying for part or all of the cost of retro-fitting older developments.”