By MONTE SONNENBERG, SIMCOE REFORMER
The public will soon be invited to make formal submissions on a plan to make the Long Point causeway more friendly to local wildlife.
Norfolk County and the Long Point Causeway Improvement Steering Committee have tapped the Orangeville engineering firm S. Burnett & Associates to conduct an environmental assessment on a proposal to install three culverts.
These “ecopassages” would allow snakes, turtles and other wildlife to travel between the Big Creek Marsh and Long Point Bay without risking death on the causeway. The culverts would also reestablish water flows and fish traffic between the bodies of water.
S. Burnett & Associates has offered to conduct the research and public hearings at a cost of $64,147. The assessment will be done at no cost to the taxpayer. Rather, the Causeway Improvement Committee has agreed to pick up the tab.
The assessment will get underway in the new year. A final report is expected in June.
“The public will have an opportunity to be well-informed about the process,” Rick Levick, chair of the causeway steering committee, said Monday. “That’s for sure. We wouldn’t want it any other way.”
The cost of installing the culverts is estimated between $400,000 and $500,000. The causeway committee is hoping to replicate the situation on the causeway as it existed in the 1950s.
Sixty years ago, a pair of bridges on the causeway began to wear out. Instead of replacing the structures, South Walsingham township laid down a new road bed and built on top of that.
One of the bridges at the south end of the causeway was nearly 200 feet long. The new road bed cut the Big Creek Marsh off from Long Point Bay, isolating a prime spawning ground for fish.
“We’re doing an environmental assessment to put things back the way they used to be,” Levick said. “We’re just trying to right a past wrong.”
The low bid for the assessment -$47,000 -was filed by the Barrie engineering firm of Jones Consulting. A high bid of $217,600 was filed by the Toronto firm SCN-Lavalin. Twelve firms in all bid for the project.
A committee of county staff and representatives of the causeway committee reviewed the applications. The committee opted for S. Burnett & Associates because its proposal was complete and deemed adequate for the project at issue.
In a report to council, county engineer John Hamilton described the culverts as “a worthwhile project.”
“The project has the financial support of numerous agencies, which include federal and provincial governments, which in turn is a benefit to Norfolk County,” Hamilton said. “The project will be watched by the world stage and the prestige in accomplishment of the final product will showcase Norfolk County as a leader in the field of wildlife preservation.”
Plans are to install the culverts next fall.
“We will not be tearing up the causeway in the middle of summer,” Levick said.