MVCA concerned erosion
could threaten Highway 21
By Liz Dadson
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Continued erosion of the shoreline gullies in the Maitland Valley Watershed could threaten Highway 21.
That's the word from Phil Beard, general manager of the Maitland Valley Conservation Authority (MVCA), in a presentation to Huron-Kinloss council Monday morning (Jan. 9).
The MVCA covers the watershed, or drainage area, of the Maitland, Nine Mile and Eighteen Mile Rivers, along with smaller watersheds along Lake Huron.
Beard was outlining the activities held in 2011, and giving council an update on the agency's strategic plan.
Finished in 2010, that plan offers several objectives for the MVCA to follow in order to build resilience and improve water quality, said Beard.
With climate change in recent years, the Great Lakes are warmer and the watershed now experiences lake-effect rainstorms and snowstorms, he said.
One objective from the strategic plan, he said, is to update the flood forecast program, to better respond to current weather systems.
"Our engineer, Steve Jackson, has developed a website to monitor the watershed conditions," said Beard. "It seems every season is flood season and we have to monitor things more closely."
A major objective, he said, is establishing a demonstration program, particularly in the shoreline gully area. Several pilot projects have been set up, including one in Point Clark and one north of Port Albert.
"Gully erosion is serious and we're seeing it moving toward Highway 21," said Beard. "If it's not stopped, Highway 21 would have to be moved back (inland)."
The pilot projects are looking at ways to slow the water down before it reaches these gullies, he said. Erosion control berms are being used but funding would be required to use them on a larger scale.
Another objective, said Beard, is developing a flood strategy for Harriston and Listowel. "If Harriston were ever flooded out, it would cause $15-million damage," he said.
Regarding finances, Beard said the goal is to increase funding from the federal and provincial governments, and some private sources. The idea is to set up a community watershed resiliency fund. The original goal was to raise $5-million in five years, but he said a more realistic goal would be $500,000 in five years.
In addition, the MVCA wants to set up a federal-provincial national infrastructure program and urge both governments to come onboard. "It's important," Beard said. "The loss of land could result in having to move Highway 21."
A Lake Huron Committee has been established, involving local representation but no politicians, to deal with some of these issues. Beard said the committee needs mayors and reeves to sit on it to make it more solution-oriented. Goderich mayor Deb Shewfelt has already shown interest, and Beard urged Huron-Kinloss to also get involved.
"We have some ambitious goals, but we also have a keen board and staff," said Beard.
Phil Beard of the MVCA discusses the strategic plan
In reference to the concern about erosion in the gullies, councillor Jim Hanna asked if the MVCA was planning to fill the gullies with stone to slow down the water.
"We would need a drop program at the end and stormwater management at the water source," said Beard. "That's an expensive program. We need to bring the federal and provincial governments back to the table. And we need local political clout to get the province and the feds to realize how important this is."
Mayor Mitch Twolan agreed, saying Bruce County and lower-tier governments must discuss the issues with the MVCA and then take those issues to the provincial and federal authorities.
When asked if he had contacted Huron-Bruce MP Ben Lobb for support, Beard said he had, but Lobb said the gully was a municipal matter.
Council thanked Beard for his presentation.
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Tuesday, January 10, 2012