Thunder Bay High Street wall debate raises questions about other infrastructure

Debate at city hall Wednesday around the High Street retaining wall in Thunder Bay, Ont. touched off a discussion about other major infrastructure priorities in the city.

Coun. Andrew Foulds says he'd like to see century-old dam project pushed up a year

City staff says work on the Boulevard Lake dam is now scheduled for 2019. (Matt Prokopchuk / CBC)

Debate at city hall in Thunder Bay, Ont. this week over a large, crumbling retaining wall that's set for replacement in 2017 touched off another discussion about other major infrastructure priorities — namely, the century-old dam that created Boulevard Lake.

The dam was originally scheduled for repairs in the summer of 2015 after an engineering report the previous year raised concerns with the structure, although efforts to get the dam fixed date back to 2008.

The project has been delayed due to budget constraints in previous years and complications over an ongoing environmental assessment. City staff now have the project slotted in for 2019.

That timeline concerned Coun. Andrew Foulds.
The Boulevard Lake dam is about 100 years old. (Matt Prokopchuk / CBC)

"I understand that we're still going through that environmental assessment ... that isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I'm concerned that we're pushing this off to 2019," he said at a city council budget meeting on Wednesday.

Foulds said he'd like to see the issue dealt with sooner.

"I'm hopeful that we can move through this process as quickly as possible and get this done, so certainly I would appreciate if there was a possibility of this being pushed forward to 2018," he said.

Competing projects

City officials have said that the dam has had minimal maintenance done on it over the past 40 years, and now it needs work.

Unfortunately for those setting the budget priorities, so do other large-scale — and costly — projects.

Right now, a bridge on Main Street is considered the major infrastructure job for 2018, said Kayla Dixon, Thunder Bay's director of engineering, adding that since the dam's environmental assessment isn't yet done, and its recommendations not fully known, city staff are giving themselves more time before sending the project out for tender.
Complications over an environmental assessment related to the dam rehabilitation is one reason work on the structure has been pushed back. (Matt Prokopchuk / CBC)

"The forecast for that (the dam) could move up into 2018 depending on the timing of that [environmental assessment], but right now we do have the Main Street bridge as our main structural project in 2018," Dixon said.

Two years ago, the dam rehabilitation was expected to cost $5.3 million. City officials said on Wednesday those costs will likely increase due to the assessment's recommendations.

"Regardless of whether I'm happy or not, we got a report that said this structure is not in good shape," Foulds said.

"I am concerned about its structure more than anything else, and its stability."


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