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Planned Harbour Improvements
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I found it democratically disturbing that Central Elgin Council's 2014 plans for improvements to Port Stanley's harbour should come out in detail in an article written by Councillor Dan McNeil for publication in the April 11, 2014 issue of The Lake Erie Beacon, but not get discussed in the open session of Council in which the 2014 harbour budget was adopted and that the public has the option to attend.

According to McNeil, the half million dollars allocated to repair the "cribs" under the west breakwater, and to be undertaken by Riggs Engineering this year, was already paid for by the federal government in 2009. In Riggs Engineering 2007 report on the condition of the harbour infrastructure they stated that "the timber crib structure encased in 25mm thick vertical planking is generally in fair condition except for areas where the timber sections are missing, broken, deteriorated and/or weathered. These descriptions generally refer to the top two timbers. On the east side of the structure ... the drift pin is exposed due to the fact that the top two timbers are missing. Also, in some areas where the top timber is missing, the concrete/grout material was visible. The west side of the structure ... vertical planking has moved 200 mm away from the face of the structure. A second timber [in the same location] is deteriorated and split for approximately 0.9 metres. There is missing timber planking ... which exposed four crib timbers and grouting." In 2007 Riggs calculated the useful remaining life of these timber cribs (built in 1906 to 1917) to be another 5 years, or 2012.

Option 2 in that report for West Breakwater repairs includes concrete overlay and timber crib repair in Phase 1: "Steel sheet plate is recommended as a repair method for the damaged portion of the timber cribs. The steel sheet plate will be bolted onto the damaged portion of the timber cribs and will extend beyond the interface of the concrete and timber cribs. By rehabilitating the concrete cap and the damaged portion of the timber crib substructure, it will maintain the overall integrity of the structure."

It is now 2014. If the money to undertake these crib repairs was paid in 2009, why then have they not been undertaken before now? In 2007 Riggs Engineering pegged the cost to repair the west breakwater between $5 and $6 million dollars, so the half million to be spent on repairing part of it this year still falls a long way short of the mark.

McNeil also states $1 million has been allocated for dredging work - in the harbour over by The Wharf (less than 2 metres of water), and at the entrance to the harbour (less than 3 metres of water) - both of which showed up as in need of dredging in the sounding depths taken by Riggs Engineering in 2007. However, McNeil says "the depth sounding surveys conducted last year [2013] shows the harbour does not actually need immediate dredging." So how can the harbour need dredging in these areas in 2007 and suddenly not need it in 2013, even though it was not dredged during the intervening years? If it doesn't need dredging at the approach to the harbour, why then did sailboats with a 6 foot draw move their berths out of Port Stanley last year after they asked Council to dredge the approach to the harbour and Council refused at that time?

After destroying the public boat launch that had been used for many years over by the west pier (by building a public walkway out of sand and stone retaining wall elevated to the same height as the west pier), Council has now decided to spend $200,000 to create a public boat launch in the same spot. So how much did it cost to destroy the original boat launch, and how much will it cost to destroy the walkway they just built? McNeil says the municipality has applied for Ontario Rural Economic Development (RED) funds to do this. Can they get grant funding to cover the original walkway creation costs that are about to apparently get wasted? How dependent are grants from RED on the outcome of the upcoming provincial election?

In McNeil's article the public is finally told what the $100,000 earmarked for another environmental assessment is actually for - an extension to the west breakwater from the lighthouse to make Port Stanley's harbour a protected small craft harbour. It seems odd to extend the west breakwater before fixing the crumbling infrastructure of the existing west breakwater. If the structure fails completely (and anyone who has been out there in recent years can see how the deterioration has increased exponentially since the 2007 report), a small breakwater extension at the mouth of the harbour will not be enough to make Port Stanley a protected small craft harbour; in fact, Port Stanley won't be a harbour at all and we will even lose Main Beach if the west breakwater fails completely. The broad Main Beach we currently enjoy exists only because of the presence of that west breakwater.

None of this was discussed in the February 18, 2014 Council meeting when By-law 1697 to adopt the harbour budget was passed. No reasons for the items in the harbour budget were given at all. So is this the new way the public is to get their information from Council - as a paternalistic decree "this is what's being done" published at the whim of Council? Is dictatorial paternalism really the type of local government you want?

Frittering the Fund


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