Environmental assessment needed for Talbot Trail solutions

Chatham-Kent residents attend a public meeting regarding the closure of Talbot Trail near Wheatley due to shoreline erosion, July 31, 2019. (Photo by Allanah Wills.

The Municipality of Chatham-Kent is looking to complete an environmental assessment of Talbot Trail to the tune of $219,615.

A report will go to council Monday night requesting approval of a request for proposal for a municipal class environmental assessment of the roadway.

In July, a 150-metre section of Talbot Trail was closed between Coatsworth Road to Stevenson Road indefinitely because of safety concerns over erosion along Lake Erie.

“Due to high water levels and wave energy from the lake, the road has been experiencing slope instability, erosion, flooding and deterioration above and beyond historic rates,” the report read.  “Based on the uncertainties associated with potential slope and subsequent road failures, the roadway was closed at this location in July 2019 in the interest of public safety.”

The closure did not sit well with several residents who live in the area. On July 31, municipal officials held a public meeting on the road with many residents requesting that the rationale behind road closures be better explained and that the municipality provides options to re-open Talbot Trail. However, the report reveals that an environmental assessment is required before any short and long term solutions can be evaluated and a final recommendation for improving the road is presented.

“The environmental assessment [will] assess Talbot Trail from 2nd Concession Line [Ellerbeck Road] to Port Road in the Community of Romney in its current state and indicate what upgrades or rehabilitative measures are needed to address the road failure and slope instability,” explained the report.

In the meantime, some temporary improvement options for Talbot Trail are being presented that would not require an environmental assessment because there would be no impact to private land. They will, however, require hefty amounts of time and money.

Option one is removing all trees and excavating 67,100 cubic meters of material, stockpiling it on-site while covering exposed banks with straw matting and revegetation with drainage piping below. This fix would last around five years, cost $2 million and take about 110 working days to complete.

Option two would be the same as option one but with armouring of the slope using engineered material for slope stability. This would last about 12 years, cost $4 million and take 120 working days.

Both options above would require a coastal engineering analysis that would cost anywhere from $300,000 to $600,000.

During the public meetings, residents also wanted to hear options to improve Concession 2, a gravel road that has been used as a detour since the closure of Talbot Trail and that has seen a steep increase in daily traffic.

“In accordance with the municipality’s road upgrade policy and to maintain proper road and shoulder widths for an improved road surface, the existing road and concrete culvert will require widening,” the report stated. “Road upgrades will include a surface treatment road with granular shoulders and a new concrete box culvert at the intersection of Coatsworth Road and Concession Line 2. These improvements are to accommodate local traffic only.”

If improvements to Concession Line 2 are considered, the approximate cost would be $3,209,200.

Right now, only the environmental assessment to help find a more permanent fix for Talbot Trail is up for council approval on Monday. If it’s approved, after an HST rebate, it would cost $197,770, which will be funded through the 2019 lifecycle roads budget. The ongoing Lake Erie Shoreline Study, once completed, will act as a resource for the assessment, which is set to be completed by the end of 2020.

If approved, the assessment contract would be provided to BT Engineering Inc, a company out of London.