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PAB Town Manager discusses infrastructure

Town Manager Leon MacIsaac says rumours that the province will buy out homeowners and prevent rebuilding on their old lots is just that – a rumour. – File photo

By René J. Roy


PORT AUX BASQUES — Town Manager Leon MacIsaac has been in his position with Channel-Port Aux Basques for five years. Before that, he was the manager of operations and public works for Paradise, including when Hurricane Igor struck in Sept. 2010.

“When I was with the town of Paradise, it was during Igor, and there was a fair bit of damage down there, but this scope of damage? No, I’ve never seen this.”

On Saturday, Oct. 8, MacIsaac paused from his busy schedule to discuss the damage to the town’s infrastructure and the scale of repair needed. He began by pointing out that most of the damage identified to date are outfall points.

“That’s our sewer outfalls, and any areas where we have found outfall points are damaged is actual debris, or the outfall point is plugged up solid, and the manholes, not just the outfalls. So those manholes and pipe systems and that have to be completely removed. And we’re currently waiting on the province to review, because they have to go back and meet federal standards.”

A great deal of the old sewer system is not up to federal standard, having been put in place long before the town had such requirements.

“So each of those have to go back, and be reinstated and done as per the guidelines.”

The damage to the outfall system is not limited to the east end of town, where a great deal of damage occurred, but is in fact rather widespread.

“It stretches from Grand Bay right down to Channel. They (outfalls) all had to be excavated. You’ll see them by Grand Bay West Bridge, over in Grand Bay, Cox Avenue, Carson Crescent. You’ll see them in Mouse Island, stretched all down Regional Street, out through the back of Charlie’s Head, and right down through Channel.”

Such a huge amount of sewer damage is not even the tip of the iceberg. MacIsaac also said that road damage, pole collapses, and more, are all part of the lengthy repair list.

“A lot of infrastructure, because the buildings were on them, we couldn’t get a look at what was underneath the road. There are road damages there that we are going to have to reinstate – both Clement Crescent and Water Street East, of course, where the roads are damaged from the storm surge,” said MacIsaac. “And in areas where the coastline was destroyed, a lot of the outfall points are obliterated. So they’ve all got to be reinstated as well.”

Plans for this work has not been a priority right now, as the town has concentrated primarily on homes that were affected by the storm.

“We’ve been documenting all these points. We had a geomatics company come in and pick up every outfall, both private and public.”

When it comes to old sewer systems, MacIsaac states that a lot of what the town is seeing is multiple homes on one single four inch sewer pipe. He surmised that it dates back to the original construction of the homes, when a neighbour may have simply offered to ‘share’ the sewer line.

“Depending on where we are, they’ll have to be combined into a main system to meet federal requirements.”

Beyond the sewer problems, the town is looking at a massive rebuild of Grand Bay Bridge.

“There’s quite a bit of undermining on the South side of the structure, from a preliminary view. There’s a provincial team of engineers that have overtaken that, and Johnson’s Construction has been awarded the contract to get that redone. And the approaching pad on that has been undermined as well, so the bridge footing structure and the approach pad all has to be replaced. And then you also have the sides of the causeway system, where you see Newfoundland Power poles there, they’ve been severely undermined, so all that’s got to be reinstated as well.”

His early estimate of the repair cost to the causeway itself is about 1.2 million dollars. Clement Crescent also has been heavily damaged by Fiona, with a huge portion of the roadway completely gone.

“That road is eaten away quite a bit there, so that’s got to be reinstated with rock and that as well. The town can do that themselves, so there won’t be a provincial end. We were just speaking with provincial counterparts yesterday (Oct 7),” said MacIsaac. “But we had to get the homes out of the way first.”

When it comes to the rebuilding of homes, MacIsaac isn’t sure on the actual planning. He says there were six homes immediately lost to the storm, six more after the fact due to irreparable structural damage, and there are anywhere from 27 to 37 more that will have to come down, as they are completely condemned for the same reason.

“There’s still gotta be discussion on that. We’re going to be talking to municipal planners, and experts in the field of coastal erosion and precautionary systems. They may have to institute a buffer system along the coastline, but we’re not progressed quite to that step yet.”

MacIsaac addressed the rumour by some residents that the province will claim their homes and land, and not allow them to rebuild.

“Right now that’s just a rumour. The province hasn’t announced that, and neither has the town. That’s just a rumour. There’s no decision made on that. I mean, obviously if there’s an area where you’ve received multiple damage you’re not going to want to rebuild on that, but that’s a land use zoning decision down the road.”

Another area hit badly was Grand Bay Beach.

“Yeah, it was undermined, portions of it were carried 600 metres inland,” said MacIsaac, referring to a 120 foot section of the boardwalk that was carried, intact, into the bogland, far from its original position.

“That’ll give you a kind of idea of the storm we had, where it can carry it that far. I think it was probably more than 600 meters. And along there, all the pillars were all undermined, so we just made the decision to remove it all, just that walkway. But all the rest of the coastline, myself and Brian (Mayor Button) did a flyover one day, and all that shoreline is decimated. We do want to rebuild. We’ll have to alter it, but that’s going to take some thought and planning as well, because the next storm may just take it out again.”

The boardwalk is far from the only damage to the popular spot.

“The beach got much bigger, and it also went all over the parking lot. We did have some armour stone down, and that may have prevented a lot more washouts, but it needs to be built stronger and higher, of course.”

The little sheds and cabanas at the beach and adjacent to the parking lot have either been carried off or badly damaged as well.

“Our priority this week is making sure people have a place to live. The winter is coming, so they’re trying to identify homes for these displaced people to get into. And we’re also looking at finding an area for people to start building new homes. We do have a new subdivision in the area (Grand Bay West) where a lot of people can go. Maybe not everyone would want to go there. We’re going to be looking at a lot of different types of homes, but that’s still at a later stage.”

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