$20M for Lake Huron, St. Clair River shoreline rehab

(From right to left) St. Clair Twp. Deputy Mayor Steve Miller, London West MP Kate Young and St. Clair Region Authority Chair Joe Fass in Strathroy. August 27, 2019. (BlackburnNews photo by Colin Gowdy)

The federal government and St. Clair Region Conservation Authority are spending over $20 million to shore up areas along the St. Clair River and southern Lake Huron.

The federal government is investing $8 million through the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund, and the conservation authority is contributing $12.3 million through the natural resources ministry, the city and St. Clair Township.

London MP Kate Young was joined by Township Deputy Mayor Steve Miller and St. Clair Region Authority Chair Joe Fass in Strathroy for Tuesday’s announcement.

Young said it was not made in direct response to the province recommending conservation authorities wind down programs not directly related to their “core mandate.”

“This doesn’t have anything to do with the cutbacks imposed by the provincial government, but I must admit it is the wrong time to be cutting back on such necessary investment, and that’s why we are determined to make sure that St. Clair Region Conservation Authority has the money that it needs to make sure communities are safe,” said Young. “This funding is there for them to start using right now and I know that we can’t wait any longer, so I think it’s something that has to be addressed as soon as possible.”

SCRCA Director of Water Resources Girish Sankar said the authority will rehabilitate the shoreline at select locations where, in recent years, high water levels, winds, ice jams and significant rain have contributed to several failures, which threatens existing infrastructure like roads, schools and parks.

“The communities of Bright’s Grove and those along the St. Clair River are going to be the ones that benefit. There are already key locations that have been identified as maximum impacts due to the flooding and erosion and these are the areas we are going to target in partnership with the municipalities.”

Sankar said the investment will certainly save money in the long run.

“If you don’t fix the flooding and erosion problems, they’re only going to get worse. If you don’t spend the money for stronger shoreline protection, it will eat into your public infrastructure,” said Sankar. “Having this plan for the next 10 years is very unique because we’ve never had the opportunity to plan for shoreline work long-term — we usually have to spend the small amount of money we get within a year.”

The project will rehabilitate five structural and natural assets, safeguarding Sarnia and St. Clair Township residents from the dangers of high water levels and deteriorating retaining walls.

–With files from Dave Dentinger.