Birch Hill Construction Ltd. of Moncton began clearing snow and brush on marshy land south of St. James Street on Tuesday in preparation for digging a retention pond designed to hold 40,000 cubic metres of water during heavy rain storms.
The work began the day after town officials held a public meeting to outline details of what’s known as Phase II of the Lorne Street flood control project.
“I think everyone in the room can hopefully agree that climate change is here, it’s real and we’ve seen a significant amount of rainfall and flooding events here,” town manager Jamie Burke told the meeting attended by the mayor, town councillors and about 25 Sackville residents.
“We’re getting more rain, we’re getting more intense storms and the temperature’s changing,” Burke said. “Those are the things that we’re trying to react to and plan for and that’s what this Phase II of the Lorne Street project is looking to do, how we can store that water in a strategic and manageable way.”
Burke explained that the storm water will be stored when tides are high.
“We can then fill up the bathtub and empty that water into the Bay of Fundy as time permits,” he added.
Town Council awarded the flood control contract for just under $2 million at its meeting in December.
The contract also calls for construction of a much smaller pond that would collect storm water near the foot of Dufferin Street.
The water from the two ponds will flow through ditches and culverts under the CN Rail line and Crescent Street to connect with a ditch owned by the provincial Department of Transportation and Infrastucture (DTI) near the old railway station.
That ditch will carry the water out past the Armtec plant to an old DTI aboiteau and eventually into the Tantramar River at low tide.
Town engineer Dwayne Acton said the construction of the large retention pond should be completed this winter while the marshy ground there is frozen. He said the other work to install the smaller pond along with new culverts and ditching should take place in the spring and early summer.
Residents were also told to expect construction work to be ongoing on the site from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday although some heavy equipment will be used at first, during the overnight hours, to tamp frost into the ground. (The tamping operation can be done only when temperatures are well below zero.)
A nearby disposal site for excavated soil hasn’t been chosen yet, so truck routes haven’t been determined, but Acton assured residents that most traffic would likely occur on Lorne and Crescent Streets as well as on an existing service road and not on narrower neighbourhood streets such as Charles.
Later, Acton made it clear that this phase of the flood control project is only a short term solution and town officials are still hoping to secure federal and provincial funding for their original plan to construct a second large retention pond behind the community garden and then conduct all of the water from the Lorne Street area to a new, double-gated aboiteau for discharge into the Tantramar River near the town’s sewage lagoons in the industrial park.
The town was forced to abandon that plan when bids came in that were twice as high as the $2.9 million in federal, provincial and municipal funding that had been set aside for the project.
The town’s decision to scrap its original $2.9 million plan for the current $2 million one leaves almost a million dollars that could be used to extend the current flood control project, but there was disagreement during Monday’s public meeting about how that money could be spent.
The town is hoping to get federal approval to construct a retention pond in the old Sackville quarry to keep water from pouring into the downtown during heavy storms, but Sackville residents Percy Best and Keith Carter argue the money should be spent instead improving drainage around the rail line and Rte. 106 west of downtown Sackville.
Before walking out of the meeting, Carter complained that the flood control contract was awarded without any public consultation.
“Everything that’s gone on for the last three years has been done in a rush,” he said. “I’ve been to enough council meetings where you say, ‘why don’t we get some input from other people in the town?’ Well, you fellas don’t want any input, you just want to do what you want to do.”
Town manager Jamie Burke said Monday’s meeting was being held to inform local residents about the details of construction in their downtown neighbourhood, not as a public consultation on long-term flood control.
However, councillor-elect Shawn Mesheau suggested it might still be worth talking about spending money alleviating flooding in western Sackville before undertaking the quarry project.
“They’re both important,” Dwayne Acton replied. “We never said the [Rte.] 106 is not important,” he said, “[but] if we don’t do the quarry project and don’t retain the water up there, then it’s going to end up down on Lorne.”
Burke also repeated his point that Monday’s meeting was purely an information session.
“As we move along with the design of the quarry, we will have another public information meeting, depending on how far along we are, whether it’s a consultation session or information meeting,” Burke said.
“We have a project that’s starting tomorrow, we’ve got equipment on site, [a] 24-hour mobile shop, we want people in the area to understand what’s happening, and when. And that was really the purpose of tonight,” Burke explained.
More information about Phase II of the Lorne Street project is available here on the town’s website.