Erin moves forward with Hillsburgh bridge, dam EA

Despite one councillor’s objections, Erin council is moving ahead with the Station Street bridge and dam environmental assessment (EA) process.

At the Dec. 6 regular council meeting Triton Engineering representatives Paul Ziegler and Chris Clark recommended council reconstruct the Station Street bridge and rehabilitate the dam in Hillsburgh, at an estimated cost of $5.1 million.

The adjacent property, owned by Wellington County, is the site of the planned new Hillsburgh library and includes the pond controlled by the dam.

In a 3-1 recorded vote council decided to receive the draft project file report and direct Triton Engineering to issue a notice of completion and circulate the report.    

Mayor Allan Alls and councillors John Brennan and Rob Smith voted in favour of the resolution with only councillor Matt Sammut opposing. Councillor Jeff Duncan declared a conflict of interest due to the close proximity of his house to the pond. He left the chamber during the discussion.

The process to work on the Station Street bridge began in late 2011, Ziegler explained, and the EA began in December of 2014.

Originally Triton Engineering presented seven options to council. Using a 17-criteria ranking system, the preferred option of reconstructing the bridge and rehabilitating the dam was neck-and-neck with decommissioning the dam.

“However, practically, to move forward, we felt that we had to shortlist the options to what was practical and that’s why we’re left with the final option,” Ziegler said.

“We felt that in the interest of the town this was the best way for you to move forward and it would allow you to reduce the risk and liability that’s currently there with the dam that’s considered to be not up to today’s standards.

“And the main reason that decommissioning the dam isn’t an option in our opinion is that you don’t own the land or the control structure to actually drain that pond and decommission that dam at this point.”

However, the $5.1-million price tag does include a $1.3-million provision to decommission the dam at a later point. Brennan suggested at a previous meeting that could be 50 to 100 years down the road.

After Triton Engineering issues a notice of completion there will be a 45-day review period, during which the public and involved agencies have the opportunity to comment and ask for additional information and Triton will respond.

“I think it’s extremely important that council and the public understand this process is not going to the ministry at this point,” said interim CAO Derek McCaughan.

“It’s still very much within the control of the town through it’s consulting engineers.”

He recommended council encourage the public to give further feedback.

When the review period is up, likely at end of January, council will receive a report with a final recommendation.

However, Sammut said he was not going to vote in support of reconstructing the bridge and rehabilitating the dam until the agencies have given their approval.

“The CVC (Credit Valley Conservation) has made it absolutely clear that they’re not able to give an opinion on a file at this point because they did not have enough technical data,” he said.

“I think the file should first go to these agencies for them to review it.

“Hopefully they come back and say if you do this and this we’re comfortable with it now, then all of a sudden I’m very comfortable saying, ‘Okay great, let’s move it forward in the process.’”

However, Clark indicated Triton Engineering has been working with the CVC and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry throughout the entire process.

Smith added the final decision as to what happens with the dam is in the hands of the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC).

“If we’re … that far off base … the Ministry of the Environment will step in and say we don’t accept what you’re doing anyway,” Smith said.