Misner Dam’s future is up in the air

 

“I believe this council doesn’t support repairing Misner Dam,” Mayor Charlie Luke said.

By David Judd

MISNER Dam’s future is up in the air.
County council has refused to award a contract to repair the historic dam on the Lynn River in Port Dover.
Last Tuesday’s 5 to 4 vote against proceeding with a $2.1-million repair project left Mayor Charlie Luke and councillors wondering what to do next.
County staff are to outline council’s options in a report at an undetermined date.
Options may include another look at repairs or exploring removing the dam.
The county also may seek advice from the Long Point Region Conservation Authority.
“I am very disappointed,” Mayor Charlie Luke said in an interview after last Tuesday’s vote.
“I believe this council doesn’t support repairing Misner Dam,” the mayor said.
“It’s pretty upsetting. It’s very disturbing to me.”
Mayor Luke said it may take this October’s municipal election to sort out what will happen with the dam.
Council has struggled to repair the dam since problems were found in 2009.
Following years of studies and discussions with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, council was poised last Tuesday to award a $1.5-million contract to Rankin Construction Inc., for repairs to start this year and finish next year.
Total cost of the project, including engineering and taxes, would have been $2.1 million.
But dam supporters — Mayor Luke, Port Dover Coun. John Wells, Charlotteville Coun. Jim Oliver and Delhi Coun. Mike Columbus — fell one vote short of awarding the contract.
They were outvoted by Simcoe councillors Peter Black and Doug Brunton, Waterford Coun. Harold Sonnenberg, Port Rowan Coun. Noel Haydt and Langton Coun. Roger Geysens.
Coun. Wells was “very much surprised” by the vote.
The project’s $2.1-million price — up from a longtime estimate of $1.1 million — may have discouraged some councillors, Coun. Wells said in an interview.
And he said councillors may have feared repairing the dam would have led to continuing demands to dredge silt above the dam in Silver Lake.
Coun. Wells said dam supporters might not have assured councillors enough that Misner Dam is an important part of the Lynn River water system, holding back sediment and protecting Port Dover’s fishing industry.
Coun. Wells said he didn’t know where council would go from here.
He said he would consider the staff report outlining options before deciding what to do next.
Coun. Black led the charge against doing repairs now.
The Simcoe councillor said council needs to explore decommissioning the dam and returning the Lynn to a cold water stream.
The dam has no purpose for flood control, Coun. Black said.
He noted that Sutton and Brook dams in Simcoe were removed to help the environment.
“I am not in favour of spending $2.1 million of Norfolk County taxpayers’ money to complete repairs that do not serve the best long-term interest of society,” he said.
“I am in favour of exploring the option of decommissioning the dam and returning the area to its original cold water stream function, including the development of a public park setting.”
Coun. Brunton asked if council should ask the Ministry of Natural Resources to pay for dam repairs.
Asking the province would be a waste of time, Mayor Luke replied.
“The province told me nine years ago when I met with them where it stands on the dam,” he said.
“They don’t own it. They don’t want it.”
Coun. Haydt suggested asking the conservation authority to use its expertise to recommend what to do.
Coun. Sonnenberg rejected doing repairs.
He said Misner Dam is as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar.
Drilling holes in the dam to bolt it to bedrock doesn’t make sense, he said.
Coun. Sonnenberg said repairs would leave Silver Lake filled with dirty, slimy, stinky water.
“We should post a sign on the 401 saying take 24 South to see Technicolor pond scum,” he said.
Researcher Marion Gadsby of Port Dover in a six-page memo to councillors made the case for repairing Misner Dam.
Doing nothing is not an option, she wrote, because the dam is too unstable in flood conditions.
She concluded only two options are viable. Repair the dam. Or remove the entire dam.
Repairing the dam would be done at a known cost of $2.1 million and would use all the studies that the county had paid for.
Removing the dam would require an expensive full environmental assessment.
Total costs of removing the dam would likely be higher than repairing the dam, Mrs. Gadsby wrote.
In an interview, Mrs. Gadsby said Misner Dam supporters would continue their efforts to get the dam repaired.
About 15 Port Dover residents witnessed council’s decision not to go forward with repairs.
Following the vote, they stood outside the council chambers for several minutes expressing their dismay and discussing the dam with Mrs. Gadsby.

 

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