Carbonear still waiting for federal treasure ship to come in
When the federal government announced March 17 it was spending $19 million to repair harbour damage from hurricane Igor and storm surges in late December, Carbonear was conspicuous by its absence from the list of communities for funding.
Eight harbours in Trinity and Conception Bays were among 15 on the Avalon Peninsula and 43 around the province to receive federal money. Heart’s Desire, Red Head Cove, Lower Island Cove, Grates Cove, Ochre Pitt Cove, Old Perlican, Hant’s Harbour and Sibley’s Cove were all on the list.
The issue surfaced at last week’s regular Carbonear town council meeting, with deputy mayor Ches Ash and Mayor Sam Slade expressing disappointment at the snub.
Slade said he had been lobbying provincial and federal politicians for assistance since the beginning of the year.
“ They’re saying to us the only way we can get funding ( for repairs) is on an 80-20 (per cent) basis,” Slade said. That’s the same cost-sharing arrangement used for all other capital works funding projects.
The mayor said he tried to contact the Carbonear Harbour Authority to find out the extent of damage to the area around the public wharf, but had yet to hear back from them.
Besides the damage to the sea wall along the beach, a section of the Lower Southside Road near the foot of Fraize Avenue also incurred some erosion “right up to the pavement’s edge.” These areas are owned by the town, Slade explained.
There was also damage to private properties along the Lower Southside Road.
Slade said the federal government is “washing their hands” of the situation. However, the mayor suggested the sea wall was likely funded by the federal government.
Council did not apply for any funding because no one knew what, if any, programs were available to cover such damage. Slade had been posing that question to federal politicians.
What’s more, a cost estimate of the damage was never carried out.
Immediate action needed
Slade outlined the damage in a Jan. 26 letter to Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea, noting “ This is a very serious issue that requires action to be taken immediately.”
Shea replied that funding through the Small Craft Harbours program is meant to “provide and maintain federally owned infrastructure at scheduled core fishing harbours that support the commercial fishery. Priority for funding is directed towards safetyrelated repairs of departmental facilities at these harbours.”
She added: “ The road and seawall in question are not federal facilities, and as such program funding cannot be directed towards these repairs.”
As such, only harbours administered by Small Craft Harbours were eligible for a share of the $19 million federal money announced March 17.
Slade told council an 84-foot section of wharf was lost during the December storm surges.
Herb Butt, chairman of the Carbonear Harbour Authority, told The Com- pass he believes Slade was referring to a section of cribbing in the vessel storage area east of the public wharf.
He said they did not seek any federal government funding for that particular section because it falls under provincial jurisdiction.
Butt said his understanding is that, “as long as they ( feds) don’t own the property, they can’t spend money on it.”
He explained the only federal property in the area is the public wharf itself.
The chairman said a four-byfour-foot section of asphalt on the wharf was taken out during the storm. And an 80-foot section of the east side of the wharf has been tipped for some time, he said.
Butt believes there was some movement underneath that section during the last storm, which caused the pavement to crack.
His biggest fear is that, “if something is not done with it soon, it’s going to end up in the ocean.”
Butt met with Small Craft Harbours in February and asked for an engineering study on the wharf. And in late January, the Harbour Authority wrote provincial Fisheries Minister Clyde Jackman, seeking some provincial funding — just over $2,700 — for short-term repairs.
“All we’re trying to do now is keep it patched up until the feds can take it over,” Butt said, referring to the short-term work on the provincial property around the wharf.
It’s generally agreed that the best solution is a breakwater to the east of the wharf, which would protect the property on both sides of the wharf. Shea acknowledged Small Craft Harbours staff have identified the breakwater as “the main priority within your harbour.”
Shea said her department is currently in the process of acquiring the property from the province to accommodate the breakwater. The project is estimated at some $2 million, though the minister could not commit to a timeframe when it will get done “due to funding pressures.”
Butt thinks it’s time for provincial politicians to start lobbying Ottawa on behalf of the Harbour Authority.
Except for $200,000 in federal funding spent on cosmetic upgrades a few years ago, very little government money has been spent on the public wharf since it was built in the 1950s.
While he doesn’t begrudge the other harbours that received money, Butt pointed out millions have already been poured into some of these places. And too often in the past he has seen costly infrastructure installed in unprotected harbours washed out to sea, while ports like Carbonear still wait for its ship to come in.