De­stroyed Sher­man In­let will be re­stored

But public ac­cess de­nied due to se­cu­rity

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - MATTHEW VAN DONGEN The Hamil­ton Spec­ta­tor

THE HAMIL­TON PORT

Author­ity will fi­nally be­gin long-promised work next year to re­store a unique in­dus­trial har­bour wet­land de­stroyed by il­le­gal dump­ing more than 15 years ago.

But tight marine se­cu­rity rules have sunk an ear­lier pro­posal to cre­ate public ac­cess trails through the res­ur­rected Sher­man In­let, port author­ity head Ian Hamil­ton told coun­cil­lors Mon­day.

The out­let of a small creek and storm sewer near the end of Sher­man Av­enue North was a rare sur­viv­ing slice of wet­land in the east har­bour — un­til it was largely filled in by the port author­ity’s pre­de­ces­sor, the Hamil­ton Har­bour Com­mis­sion, in the early 2000s.

A cit­i­zen com­plaint spurred a fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion and or­der al­most a decade ago to clean up and res­ur­rect fish habi­tat.

The wait is al­most over, said the new port author­ity pres­i­dent, who told coun­cil­lors Mon­day a plan to ad­dress fed­eral en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns in the il­le­gally filled in­let should be ready by the end of the year, with ac­tual work be­gin­ning in 2018.

Hamil­ton said the port will “re­store” the pre­vi­ously filled-in shore­line and “reveg­e­tate” the creek out­let, with plans to leave the area a “nat­u­ral­ized”

out­post in an other­wise heav­ily in­dus­trial sec­tion of har­bour.

In 2013, the agency told The Spec­ta­tor the cleanup plan was de­layed be­cause of chang­ing pri­or­i­ties — in par­tic­u­lar, the $140 mil­lion, multi-year megapro­ject to trap toxic in­dus­trial coal tar in the har­bour’s Ran­dle Reef.

It com­mit­ted at that time to re­visit Sher­man In­let in or af­ter 2017.

Coun. Matthew Green asked Mon­day if the agency would also pro­vide public ac­cess to the re­stored green space as out­lined in a land use pro­posal cel­e­brated by en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists in 2007.

That plan called for trails through the wooded area and along the wa­ter.

The port author­ity has had to scrap that plan be­cause of “safety and se­cu­rity” con­cerns, Hamil­ton said.

Ad­vo­cacy group En­vi­ron­ment Hamil­ton tweeted out crit­i­cism of the de­ci­sion dur­ing the port author­ity’s up­date to coun­cil­lors Mon­day.

“Deeply dis­ap­pointed by this news — this space was promised to the public and is much needed along this stretch of har­bourfront!”

Hamil­ton cited more re­stric­tive marine se­cu­rity pro­to­cols that came into ef­fect af­ter 2008 that forced the agency to fence off a num­ber of pre­vi­ously ac­ces­si­ble port ar­eas.

A tall chain-link fence cur­rently sep­a­rates the public from the re­main­ing wooded area around the creek north of Sher­man Av­enue — al­though dog walk­ers can still be seen us­ing the area from time to time.

He also noted the in­let is also the dump­ing ground for a city com­bined sewer out­fall — a pipe that pushes both rain­wa­ter and ex­cess san­i­tary sewage into the en­vi­ron­ment dur­ing large storms.

“It would be dif­fi­cult to turn it into a real nice park un­less you ad­dress that is­sue as well,” he said.

But Hamil­ton said the agency rec­og­nizes the public in­ter­est in the har­bour and is try­ing to com­pro­mise by of­fer­ing a “view­ing tower” in the park­ing lot of win­ter boat stor­age fa­cil­ity on Pier 15. From that lo­ca­tion, Hamil­ton said res­i­dents should be able to see Sher­man In­let — even if they can’t visit.

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