By Daniel R. Pearce, Simcoe Reformer
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
The underground eco-passages that will provide a safe route for endangered species of turtles and snakes to pass underneath the Long Point causeway will cost town hall $60,000.
The community group heading up the project has said for the past six years it could fundraise all the money needed — roughly $900,000.
But the approval process for the concrete culverts that will run between the marsh and the inner bay cost more than expected, councillors were told Tuesday night before they agreed to help fund the project.
The catch is that some funds raised by members of the Long Point Causeway Improvement Project have to be used by March 2013 while the county can’t give the OK for construction until all the money is in place.
If town hall doesn’t chip in now, the passageways won’t go ahead, the meeting heard.
Simcoe Coun. Peter Black said town hall should be willing to cover the shortfall.
“If they (LPCIP) had not done it, there would have been a lot of pressure on council to do it,” Black said. “The problem was man-made in the beginning. It’s something that should have been corrected a long time ago.”
A narrow strip of land built decades ago to connect the mainland with the summer resort of Long Point, the causeway is considered to be a death trap for endangered species of snakes and turtles migrating back and forth across the road every year.
The LPCIP has been trying to fix the problem by putting up fencing and warning motorists to watch for wildlife crossing the road. That work has cut mortality rates by 50-60%, but the group would like to proceed with three underground passageways, said Rick Levick, co-ordinator of LPCIP.
It will provide safe migration routes for wildlife as well as re-circulate water between the marsh and the bay like it did decades ago, Levick said.
A second citizens group from Long Point that has opposed LPCIP’s proposal all along asked council not to agree to provide the $60,000.“Norfolk council should not use taxpayers money for wildlife when there are human needs,” said Stu Ross of the Friends Of the Causeway Association, who noted that Norfolk’s roads “are deteriorating faster than we can repair them.” How the shortfall in funds came about “appears to be a mystery,” Ross added.
In an interview, Levick said “costs just kind of got away from us.”
Construction on the underground passageways will likely start in mid-November, he said.
LPCIP will monitor how the passageways are used and may install cameras to record the migration of wildlife.
If they prove successful, the group has said it will try to add more culverts along the causeway in future years.