Harbour fence puts brake on St. John's snowclearing drive

The City of St. John's has removed thousands of tonnes of snow from scores of streets in the last week, although its controversial harbour security fence has been slowing down the effort.
Trucks have been regularly dumping snow into St. John's harbour as part of a widspread snowclearing operation. (Cecil Haire/CBC )

The City of St. John's has removed several thousand tonnes of snow from scores of streets in the last week, although its controversial harbour security fence has been slowing down the effort.

The city pulled out 4,790 truckloads of snow from 273 streets in a week, Mayor Dennis O'Keefe told Monday evening's meeting.

St. John's was hit hard by a cascade of storms from mid-December through to early January, with as much as 103 cm of snow on the ground by the time a blizzard finished on Jan. 4.

While warmer weather and rain in recent days are helping to rid the city of snow — there was a cover of 34 cm of snow at St. John's International Airport as of Tuesday — officials pulled all available resources into a huge snow removal operation that is still underway.

A fleet of City of St. John's trucks worked together last week to clear snow on Military Road near downtown St. John's. (CBC)
But the new harbour fence, which was built to meet security demands of the St. John's Port Authority, has made snow removal a more time-consuming procedure this winter.

Deputy City Manager Paul Mackey told CBC News that truck operators have to deal with paperwork every time they take a load of snow to the harbour, where snow is often dumped.

"We would prefer if we didn't have to do it, but it's a fact of life and it's required by regulations," Mackey said in an interview.

"We don't have a choice."

Mackey said the city uses other sites for dumping snow, including the city's waste management facilities at Robin Hood Bay.

Extra money needed, O'Keefe says 

O'Keefe told said that the snowclearing blitz of the last week involved costs of $200,000 over budget, with a chunk of that money going to 15 trucks owned by private operators.

But O'Keefe said he's not worried about the extra cost.

"We have a budget, yes, and we [also] have a reserve, yes," O'Keefe told Monday's council meeting.

"If we have to go over the budget and over the reserve …[to] do what needs to be done, then we do this also."


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