City to tear down Muskrat River dam

The Daily Observer - - FRONT PAGE - SEAN CHASE

For decades, the Muskrat River dam stopped logs from flow­ing into the Ottawa River but soon the land­mark near city hall will, it­self, be his­tory.

Pem­broke city coun­cil voted last week to dis­man­tle and re­move the dam which has not played an op­er­a­tional role in 16 years but has en­joyed a sec­ond life as a favoured fish­ing spot. In fact, since 2004 the dam was closed to the public and con­sid­ered a non­func­tion­ing struc­ture.

“The Muskrat River Dam was never de­signed nor meant to be used by the public,” ex­plained op­er­a­tions man­ager Brian Lewis. “It was a func­tional dam and has in­her­ent risks to public use, even though it is no longer func­tion­ing.”

While the stop log trol­ley is more a mu­seum piece now, Lewis noted there are de­fi­cien­cies with the dam in­clud­ing in­ad­e­quate bar­ri­ers, nu­mer­ous trip­ping haz­ards and trip ledges, fall risks with open grat­ing and rail­ings, concrete degra­da­tion, ero­sion ad­ja­cent to the struc­ture and pos­si­ble struc­tural and load lim­i­ta­tion.

It costs the city be­tween $10,000 and $20,000 an­nu­ally to re­move de­bris and con­duct min­i­mal main­te­nance on the struc­ture. Staff pro­jected that the dam could be re­moved and re­placed with a sin­gle or two-span pedes­trian bridge at an es­ti­mated cost be­tween $725,000 and $775,000.

The city could have re­paired the dam re­plac­ing the ex­ist­ing rail­ing with code-com­pli­ant steel rail­ing, the ex­ist­ing grat­ing and ap­proach grad­ing to pro­vide a level tran­si­tion be­tween the ap­proaches and deck at a cost as high as $400,000.

An­other op­tion was to build a tim­ber sleeper floor on top of the ex­ist­ing concrete deck and in­stall chain link fence in front of the ex­ist­ing rail­ing to pro­tect the public from the in­suf­fi­cient rail open­ings or add a new tim­ber guardrail in front of the ex­ist­ing steel bar­rier. Lewis sug­gested un­der­wa­ter in­spec­tion of the pier would be needed.

An­nual costs for de­bris re­moval at the dam av­er­aged about $11,300 per year with the odd ex­cep­tion, Lewis added. Last sea­son was an ex­tremely ex­cep­tional year with strong storms, he noted, with ma­jor rain events and flood­ing, which led to a de­bris re­moval cost of around $59,500. Since 2004, roughly $218,000 has been ex­pended in mi­nor main­te­nance and de­bris re­moval at the dam.

While it is off lim­its, mem­bers of the public con­tinue to tres­pass on the dam so they can fish with po­lice con­stantly ask­ing folks to leave the site. There was lit­tle ap­petite on coun­cil to keep the dam with Coun. Les Scott ad­vo­cat­ing spend­ing the es­ti­mated $150,000 to $175,000 to have it torn down.

“It’s a big li­a­bil­ity,” said Scott. “It’s an ac­ci­dent wait­ing to hap­pen. Let’s get it re­moved as soon as we can.”

“Bridges are won­der­ful but that is a dam,” added Coun. Pat Lafre­niere. “I don’t see any pur­pose in keep­ing it.”

How­ever, Coun. An­drew Plum­mer be­lieved the dam should be trans­formed into a pedes­trian bridge. He thought it could some­thing aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing and would fit with the cul­ture of the river.

“The struc­ture seems to be in de­cent shape,” said Plum­mer. “There are no sub­stan­tial concrete fail­ures.”

Coun­cil de­cided in a recorded vote of 6-1 to re­move the dam with Plum­mer cast­ing the only dis­sent­ing vote. Coun­cil in­structed staff to put $41,000 into the re­serves to be­gin the re­moval process in 2019. SChase@post­


Pem­broke city coun­cil has voted to re­move the dam that stretches across the Muskrat River ad­ja­cent to the Lake Street bridge. The dam has not been op­er­a­tional since 2002, how­ever, it is closed to the public and presents a li­a­bil­ity to the city.

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