Work continues on $2 million Sackville flood control project in spite of delays

Excavator works on pond south of St. James St. that holds water from recent rains

It’s taking longer than expected to dispose of about 9,000 tonnes of contaminated soil that was discovered during the digging of a 40,000 cubic metre flood retention pond near Lorne Street in downtown Sackville.

Town manager Jamie Burke says the night before contractors were to start hauling the soil laced with petroleum, aromatic hydrocarbons and heavy metals to an Envirem Organics disposal site in Memramcook, the provincial department of transportation told the town it would not allow trucks to use a service road that runs parallel to the TransCanada Highway because of spring weight restrictions.

“That forced us to juggle things,” Burke adds, “because we did have a pile of contaminated material that we expected to transport out with nasty weather starting.”

Burke says the town then arranged to truck about 1,500 tonnes of the soil to Elmtree Environmental, a disposal facility near Moncton.

“We received a very favourable disposal rate from the facility and we had co-operation of the contractor to get that material out without it being any more expensive than it would have been to take the 1,500 tonnes of material to Envirem,” Burke says.

He adds that the remaining 7,500 tonnes will be trucked to the disposal site in Memramcook once the province lifts the seasonal weight restrictions.

Excavation beside CN Rail line for installation of twin culverts under the tracks

Tricky CN crossing

Burke says that on May 6th, a drill crew from Montreal will begin installing twin culverts under the CN rail line near Crescent Street, a job that is expected to take five days.

The 1050 millimetre (41.3 inch) pipes will carry water from the Lorne Street flood control project under the CN tracks. The water will then flow through pipes under Crescent Street into a ditch that drains across the marsh to an old wooden aboiteau.

In an earlier update, the town reported that the tricky operation to push the twin culverts under the railway was delayed by the discovery of a buried fibre-op cable that was lower than expected, forcing the contractor to move the drilling site several feet to the northeast.

Old wooden aboiteau that will handle all of the water from the current phase of the Lorne St. flood control project

Mayor says more will be needed

Meantime, Mayor John Higham says that Lorne Street and the rest of downtown Sackville remained quite dry during the recent rains, showing that the flood control project is starting to work.

However, the mayor adds that ditches and ponds were filling up even though Sackville did not experience conditions that led to record, one-in-one-hundred-year flooding in other parts of the province.

“The one-in-one-hundred, we haven’t even come close to seeing that as yet down here,” Higham warns, adding that the town must prepare for storms that could result in flooding from heavy rains as well as rising seas.

“That’s the terrible combination of getting a one-in-one-hundred that drops the rain inside the dikes and also getting such a storm that it’s pushing a much higher tide outside of the dikes, and how those two interact could be pretty significant, especially with the dikes in the state they are right now,” he says.

The mayor suggests that people who say the town is wasting money by constructing big water retention ponds aren’t looking at the potential for such record-breaking storms.

He was referring to critics such as Sackville resident Percy Best who maintains it would be more effective and much cheaper to clear existing marsh ditches, replace old aboiteaux and work on alleviating flooding that originates in the area west of Sackville rather than concentrating efforts on the watershed directly above the town.

“They’re wasting a lot of money building big ponds with trees and fancy walking trails around them,” Best says. “There are much cheaper and better ways of doing this.”

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9 Responses to Work continues on $2 million Sackville flood control project in spite of delays

  1. Percy Best says:

    The wooden timber aboiteau (AB-02), shown above, that is responsible for draining basically ALL of the floodwaters from Sackville, is in excess of 100 years old.. The measured inside dimensions are 24″ wide and 36″ high. The aboiteau flapper is inside and as a result does restrict the flow somewhat when water is draining through.

    This aboiteau is of course operational only about half the time because when the tide is ‘in’ the flapper is closed. So the Town’s main drain is basically equivalent to an minuscule 18″ square opening if it were an unrestricted culvert. If it were simply replaced with a 72″ diameter aboiteau (as the Hilcon Report suggests) then we would not have a flooding problem.

    It seems the Town did not follow the Hilcon engineers suggestions. It is certainly long past the time to take the plug out of the bathtub!

    • Wrayton says:


      The Hilcon report does not suggest replacing the wooden timber aboiteau (AB-02) would solve all of Sackville’s flooding problems. On the contrary, the report states that flooding in Sackville is very complex and will require multiple solutions and expenditures over many many years to solve or mitigate.

      If you are going to continually make statements based on the Hilcon report (assuming you have actually read it) you should at least understand what it says.

      • Percy Best says:

        Wrayton, thanks for your comments.

        The Hilcon report states on page 15 — “AB-02 — The existing aboiteau structure is hydraulically undersized and is the primary aboiteau draining the Lorne Street region in downtown Sackville. This region experiences regular flooding during large rainfall events.”

        It also states on the same page that AB-02 is second only to AB-04A on the Hilcon Replacement Priority List. AB-04A is of course the three aboiteaux system that is currently being installed at the Rte 935 causeway by Modern Construction under contract from the NB Department of Transportation and Infrastructure. This system looks after the massive 49 sq km watershed area of the West Sackville/ Frosty Hollow area.

        The fact is that the overflowing floodwaters from that area simply followed along the railway ditches and as long time residents of Sackville know, this was the primary cause of excessive water in the Lorne Street vicinity. Those three have now been upgraded from the undersized deteriorated corrugated steel triple 1.05 meter (dia) pipes to the new 1.80 meter (dia) concrete system. Thank you (former MLA) Bernard LeBlanc for without your perseverance and dedication, while working with Cheryl Ward and myself, this never would have been initiated by now.

        If a similar common sense approach had been taken by Town management, as has been done by DTI, then a new aboiteau would have been installed by now at the AB-02 site. The drainage system (fresh and salt water side) would have been cleaned out by excavators (after over 50 years of neglect) and we would not have a future flooding problem. Estimated cost was pegged at half a million dollars. Interesting (but sad) to note that the Crandall Engineering fees (and its partner Englobe) for the Lorne Street Phase II section alone are now well in excess of this half a million dollars.

        So how many millions of dollars has THE TAXPAYER thrown at this project so far and Town Management still has not fixed the ‘plug’ that keeps the water from emptying out of our Town and into the tidal Tantramar River system twice every day. If a proper sized aboiteau is only closed for 5 hours twice a day, then why on earth does one need to store water for a full day or more? The engineers at DTI and Hilcon seem to get it!

      • Wrayton says:


        The Hilcon report was designed to “investigate the flooding in Sackville by examining major stormwater infrastructure in the Carters Brook watershed” and is limited to that area.

        The report concludes that flooding could be “reduced” in Sackville by replacing the old infrastructure as you mentioned above. Note that they use the word REDUCE.

        They also conclude:

        “Constructing a dyke and aboiteau system at the outlet of Ram Pasture Marsh and redirecting runoff from Lorne Street through a major stormwater system are ‘possible solutions’ to mitigate flooding in Sackville; however, they both have significant environmental impacts and construction costs that may be prohibitive considering their hydraulic benefits.”

        i.e. the current Phase II project being undertaken by the town is a “possible solution” to mitigate flooding in Sackville, but Hilcon didn’t really investigate that as it was outside the scope of the report. Notice Percy that they do not say Phase II is a bad idea or unnecessary but a “possible solution” that warrants further study.

        The Hilcon report clearly outlines its scope and limitations and in no way claims to be the ONLY solution to Sackville’s flooding problems. It only outlines some actions that could be taken to reduce flooding at Carters Brook. It is not intended to be a panacea or to be used against other mitigation studies or projects by different Engineering firms.

        You continue to use this report for purposes for which it was not designed or intended. I understand you are very passionate about this subject, but the Hilcon report does not justify your position.

  2. Sharon Hicks says:

    First, Kudos to Bruce for doing the legwork and posting this update for the citizens of Sackville, as to what is happening with the construction site. There has been no update from Town officials since April 9, and it appears a lot has happened in the meantime.

    Mayor Higham’s comment about the reason for lack of recent flooding lacks credulity, at best.

    Despite his best efforts to convince us that “the flood control project is starting to work”, he neglects to mention that the recently installed new aboiteau at the causeway leading to Westcock has effectively ‘fixed’ the issue of flood waters coming from that direction. And, as any long-time resident of Sackville will tell you, that is where the majority of floodwater has come from over the years.

    So, it appears that DTI has already done more to help with the downtown flooding than the still-unfinished excavation which is ongoing south of Lorne Street. An expensive lesson, I’m afraid.

  3. Rima Azar says:

    Yes, thanks to the New Wark Tmes as well as to Percy Best and Sharon Hicks for all your efforts and highly informative comments.

    Money does not grow on trees in life, even for our governments (local, provincial, or federal). Thus, one can wonder about the long-term consequences of our town’s overspending practice: Will we end up having less public funds remaining for other important projects because of too expensive projects like this one? Or are things under control? If not, will Sackville be obliged to increase its municipal taxes? Or, more dramatically, could our town (or province?) go bankrupt one of these days?

    • Wrayton says:


      Sackville is not going broke. Remember this article from December? You commented on it:

      • Rima Azar says:

        So Wrayton, between the lines, you seem to be saying that things are (still?) under control then. Good news (happy to hear!). If so, the question becomes: Until when, especially without a clear consistent commitment to optimal value for money spent?

        Maybe it is hard for citizens to see the mindset for such a commitment in this mega-project because things are yet again not transparent enough? Could it be? Clearer communications may be beneficial to restore trust with the population. In my opinion, smart/wise and knowledgeable citizens like Mr. Percy Best should be honoured because they simply make our governance more accountable. This is the least in a democracy.

  4. All that I thought of when I heard about that new expense of $400K for soil contamination was ‘well there goes more money not being spent on a great concrete skatepark build’ again .. that’s what I told Bruce Phinney when we chatted about this issue recently as well .. thanks Bruce..

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