Riverside Dam construction delayed to 2022 with higher price tag

After months on hold because of the pandemic, the Riverside Dam project will now move ahead with a delayed timeline and a bigger price tag.

Construction now pushed back to 2022, with work set to be completed in 2023

Photo of a dam.
Work on rebuilding the Riverside Dam was paused in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Construction will continue in 2025. (Source: City of Cambridge)

After months of being on hold because of the pandemic, the Riverside Dam project will now move ahead with a delayed timeline and a more costly price.

Cambridge City Council passed a motion Tuesday to continue preparation work to repair the dam. Work on the project was paused in May.

Construction was supposed to start in 2021, but a report submitted to council says "if the design is resumed now, construction of the dam could begin in 2022 and be completed in 2023."

City council has set aside about $6 million for the project, including nearly $500,000 toward the design. But the report says the estimated construction costs put forward previously did not include requirements from the provincial government, made after the province's final environment study.

According to the report, additional elements will need to be added to the design and cost, including:

  • Operating gates and valves to reduce flooding potential and help pass sediment;
  • A fish ladder or alternative fish passage method;
  • Health and safety apparatus for safe access and protection of operations staff;
  • Fencing, signs and river barriers to prevent recreational use near the dam.

Hundreds of thousands more: Mayor

The additional cost for the project will likely total hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to Cambridge Mayor Kathryn McGarry. The report says design work has not advanced far enough to put forward more detailed cost estimates.

"It's important that we do some detailed design in order to start adding in those extra conditions that the [Environment] Minister put in, so we can be shovel-ready in case there may be funding or a grant from one of our upper levels of government in future," said McGarry.

City Council voted to rebuild the Riverside Dam in June 2018, after years of debate on whether the project should go ahead.

The report cites a structural inspection of the dam, completed in 2018, that said "based on the advancing deterioration of the past decade," the risk of concrete popping out of the dam would be high within two to 10 years and the integrity of the dam could be compromised.

"We do need to get the work underway to ensure the dam doesn't fail structurally in the interim," said McGarry.

There will be an opportunity for community input on the proposed design later this year, according to the report.


Julianne Hazlewood is a multimedia journalist who's worked at CBC newsrooms across the country as a host, video journalist, reporter and producer. Have a story idea?