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Frittering the Fund
  by Francie Dennison  
 Frittering the Fund 
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When I saw the $100,000 for a West Breakwater Environmental Assessment initiation in the Central Elgin 2014 Harbour Budget, after all the extensive work already done by CH2MHill and Riggs Engineering, I have to wonder if endless repetitive studies are how the Harbour Fund will eventually be frittered away - with nothing but crumbling infrastructure to show for the money spent.

The Port Stanley Harbour Risk Assessment completed by CH2MHill had a draft report in November 2010 of 205 pages. That report included the West Breakwater and did not identify any contaminants or environmental threats from the West Breakwater structures. Since that draft report was released there have been numerous public meetings, public input and revisions, and no change in the way the West Breakwater is used. Aside from the continuing and rapidly deteriorating state of the West Breakwater, could the environmental conditions have changed so dramatically since the revised report presented in the fall of 2013 as to require yet another Environmental Assessment of it before any repairs can be made?

On page 25 of the draft report it states that "PAHs have been identified as a major contamination concern which could affect water quality within the Lower Kettle Creek bed sediments at Port Stanley. Two main areas within Lower Kettle Creek, downstream of the George Street Drain in Port Stanley and adjacent to former petroleum tank farms, have been identified as containing contaminated sediments. Several studies have investigated the extent and severity of the contamination. These studies have shown that the area furthest downstream is significantly contaminated and will continue to be a chronic source of pollution for the waterway if cleanup measures are not taken (KCCA as cited in Dennison, 2008). Recently, the MOE has concluded that this area does not pose a threat to downstream soil or surface water quality (MOE, 2010)." It does not identify the West Breakwater as a source of contamination; rather, the study pegs any contamination source in that area as being in the West Pier and migrating on-site through the groundwater from adjacent privately owned properties (McAsphalt and Lakes Terminal Warehousing domes), or coming downstream from Kettle Creek.

But Central Elgin Council has approved spending another $100,000 to do the Environmental Assessment on the West Breakwater again, less than a year after CH2MHill completed that very report. What could they possibly be planning for the West Breakwater that would require another Environmental Assessment so soon after the one completed by CH2MHill?

In the spring of 2007 Riggs Engineering Ltd. undertook a Routine Detailed Inspection (RDI) of Port Stanley harbour infrastructure, on behalf of Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) and Transport Canada. Watech Services Inc. was retained as a sub-consultant and carried out an inspection of the underwater components of the structures. That report is 328 pages long and includes the West Breakwater.

It determined the useful residual life (URL) of the major structural components such as concrete and steel sheet piling. With no repairs being undertaken, the West Breakwater was determined to have a URL without being in danger of total collapse of 15 years (from 2007).

The report identifies the West Breakwater as containing 3 structures (Original West Breakwater, West Breakwater Extension and West Checkwater) with the Original West Breakwater commencing at the south end, and offers three costed repair options with in-depth detail of current conditions, what is to be repaired and how:

Option 1: Repairs to the West Breakwater Rubble Mound Revetment involves surrounding the perimeter with a stone talus, which is divided into three layers starting with core stone at the bottom of the harbour. Above the core stone is a layer of filter stone and above the filter stone is a layer of armour stone. Cost: $4,896,260

Option 2: West Breakwater Rubble Crib Hybrid consists of concrete overlay, repair of the damaged timber and eventually encapsulating the perimeter of the breakwaters with a stone talus similar to Option 1. Cost: $4,856,805

Option 3: West Breakwater Steel Sheet Pile Encapsulation entails installing steel sheet piling around the entire perimeter of the breakwater and concrete overlay. Cost: $5,871,010

Now the existence of the West Breakwater is the very structure which has caused the accretion of Main Beach, giving us that wide expanse of Blue Flag beach that is Port Stanley's main tourist draw. Without the West Breakwater, Main Beach would be much smaller or even non-existent. It is certainly a much skinner strip of sand in the photos I have of it from the 1920's and 1930's.

When the municipality already has an engineering report stating exactly what needs to be done to repair the West Breakwater and how much it will cost, and an Environmental Assessment on the West Breakwater that isn't even 6 months old, why spend/waste $100,000 for another EA to tell them what is already known?

I can understand the $1 million budgeted for the much-needed, often-requested and long-awaited harbour dredging. "A 1987 federal government study concluded that 55,000 m3 of sediment was required to be annually dredged from Port Stanley Harbour to keep the harbour at commercial shipping depths. Of this volume, 25 percent was attributed to siltation of the harbour mouth originating from Lake Erie and the rest (41,000 cubic metres) coming from the Kettle Creek watershed (KCCA as cited in Dennison, 2008)." - CH2MHill.

I can understand the $200,000 budgeted for a recreational public boat launch to replace the one they took away. I can understand the $500,000 pegged for breakwater repairs and maintenance even if they don't say which breakwater or what repairs and maintenance they have in mind that will cost so much money.

But where I get worried is when I see $100,000 slated for the repeat of a study just completed. Will Central Elgin Council fritter away the bulk of our Harbour Fund on endless, repetitive and unnecessary studies? Will we end up with an empty bank account and nothing to show for it but crumbling infrastructure we cannot afford to ever repair? Is this all the promise of harbour divestiture is to be?

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