City to tear down Muskrat River dam
Sean Chase/Daily Observer 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.
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.
City council voted on Tuesday night 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 non-functioning 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 remove 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 averageabout $11,300 per year with the odd exception, Lewis added. Last season was an extremely exceptional year with strong storms, he noted, with majorrain events and flooding, which lead 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, the public continues 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 Councillor 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 Councillor Pat Lafreniere. “I don't see any purpose in keeping it.”
However, Councillor 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.