Fishermen frustrated and fuming as Placentia lift bridge leaves boats stuck in harbour

The $50-million Sir Ambrose Shea Lift Bridge in Placentia works great — if you drive a car or a truck.

Broken cable reel won't be fixed for weeks

A broken cable reel is preventing the Placentia lift bridge from opening, leaving some fishing vessels stuck in the harbour. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

The $50-million Sir Ambrose Shea Lift Bridge in Placentia works great — if you drive a car or a truck.

The current problem is a cable reel that broke April 30, and the replacement isn't due for about a month.

Ken Viscount, a Placentia-area fisherman for more than 30 years, says it feels like they've been dealing with bridge problems day-in, day-out since it opened almost a couple of years ago.

Fisherman Ken Viscount: 'We got a beautiful-looking bridge, but we don't have a beautiful-working bridge.' (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

"It seems like every time it's a good fishing time, like crabbing is now, I mean, that's the fishermen's moneymakers, eh? The bridge is broke," Viscount told CBC News.

"Last fall, fish was plenty, the bridge was broke. It eliminates a lot of boats from going fish."

It's affecting fishermen's livelihoods, he said.

"We got fellers finished crabbing who could be gone lobstering now, but some of them lobsters in bigger boats, and they're not able to go," he said.

Some fishermen have been trying to cut down the heights of their vessels by trimming down equipment like exhaust pipes, so some of them can squeeze under at low tide, but at least three larger vessels are stranded in the harbour, said Viscount.

Calvin Kerrivan says he doesn't understand why it should take a month to get a replacement part for the bridge. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Calvin Kerrivan, a fisherman for more than 40 years, fishes from April until December — or at least he would, if his boat weren't stuck.

"When you got to wait a month for to get a cable, or a spool that a cable goes onto, in this day and age? My god, you should be able to fly it in overnight. Sure, you go and pick it up on a pedal bike quicker."

A statement from the Department of Transportation and Works says the reel is a specialty item sourced from outside the province, built to withstand harsh marine environments.

"The cost of the replacement reel is approximately $24,000," reads the statement. "However, the department is also assessing the reel to determine the cause of the damage, which will determine if the replacement will be covered under warranty."

The statement says the department is "looking at all ways to get the bridge operating as soon as possible," but that's not fast enough for Viscount.

"We got a beautiful-looking bridge, but we don't have a beautiful-working bridge."

With files from Terry Roberts