More than 50 land-use planners, government officials, academics and members of environmental organizations visited Sackville Tuesday to learn about the town’s climate change adaptation projects including the new $2.5 million flood control pond that is still under construction.
The event, which was billed as Learning Day: Natural and Nature-Based Climate Adaptation, was organized by the New Brunswick Environmental Network and paid for by the federal and provincial governments.
Town engineer Dwayne Acton and senior manager Jamie Burke delivered a slide presentation on the Lorne Street flood control project at the Sackville Commons and then led participants on a tour of the 40,000 cubic metre storm water pond that is part of Phase II of the project.
“We tried to keep the natural features, groves of trees that were native to this area,” Acton told tour participants as they stood beside the pond on the south side of St. James Street. “We tried to create our own naturalized retention pond.”
He said any additional costs of keeping the natural features were “minimal, minimal,” adding that the pond’s service roads would double as walkways connecting to the town’s extensive trail network.
Acton pointed to an excavator on the west side of the pond that was loading creosoted rail ties and concrete onto a truck that would haul them along with soil laced with petroleum, aromatic hydrocarbons and heavy metals to a disposal facility in Memramcook.
As reported earlier, disposing of the contaminated materials is adding an extra $500,000 to the cost of the project.
Acton explained that the town originally planned to drain storm water to a second larger pond.
Plans had to be changed after bids on the original one came in at $6 million, double the original budget.
“But then we were able to acquire a lot of land from CN which turned out to be a bit of a mess,” he said, referring to the discovery of the contaminated materials on the railway’s property.
When someone wondered whether CN was motivated to give up the land because the company would benefit from a flood control project near its tracks, manager Jamie Burke responded that the town hasn’t figured out “what really motivates them,” adding that CN had an old office building that he probably wouldn’t want to put his dog in, so that when the town offered to buy a more modern building in the industrial park, CN agreed to swap the land for it.
The group laughed when Burke went on to say, “They said ‘OK, you do that for us and we’ll give you the rest of the property as is, where is.'”
When a participant asked about CN’s financial responsibility for removing the contaminated materials, Burke said: “They own property all across the country and their properties are contaminated across the country, so they don’t want to get into the contaminated land business.”
He added that CN told the town the storm water would have to be stored on the north side of its tracks.
“So despite the federal government, the provincial government, the town of Sackville making improvements to protect not only our own municipality, but a piece of national, critical infrastructure which is the train track,” Burke said, “they have yet to contribute any money to the overall project other than partnering in the land exchange.”
When another participant asked whether the town had exercised “due diligence” in acquiring the CN land, Acton responded that six or eight bore holes had been drilled to test the soil.
Later, after the group had moved to the other end of the pond near Crescent Street, Burke said that good communication, including his regular updates on the town’s website, are key to maintaining public support.
He acknowledged that there is still opposition to the town’s approach from a small and persistent group, but suggested half jokingly that the critics might be silenced when Sackville eventually wins awards for its flood control project.