The following is the text of a deputation made to Norfolk County Council by Rick Levick, coordinator of the Long Point Causeway Improvement Project, in support of a staff report recommending approval of the construction contract for the three proposed ecopassages and a $58,000 contribution by the County to the project. These recommendations were approved unanimously by the eight Councillors at the meeting. The $238,000 construction contract was awarded to Anders Contracting of Waterford
Mr. Chairman and members of Council
Thank you for this opportunity to speak in support of the staff report about awarding the construction contract for the Long Point Causeway ecopassages.
As you know, I am the coordinator of the Long Point Causeway Improvement Project, a community-based initiative that began six years ago with the primary goal of reducing wildlife road mortality on the Causeway. This road is the gateway to the Long Point World Biosphere Reserve and has been designated, ironically and sadly, as the fourth deadliest road for turtles in North America.
I am pleased to advise Council that the road kill of turtles, snakes and frogs on the Causeway has been reduced significantly thanks to our group’s work. We have installed more than 4,000 metres of barrier fencing to keep these animals off the road and, equally important, have encouraged motorists to be more watchful for wildlife as they cross the causeway.
Our monitoring program found that reptile road mortality had been reduced by more than 50 per cent between 2008 and 2010. As well, road kill of species at risk turtles and snakes, our priority, was reduced by over 60 per cent. That reduced mortality has continued for the past two years as a result of our on-going fencing maintenance and notable changes in driver behaviour.
Just the other day as I was driving across the causeway, I noticed a vehicle stopped at the side of the road and two people standing in front of it. As I got closer, I could see they were trying to figure out how to help an enormous, moss-covered snapping turtle make it safely across the last three feet of pavement on its way to wherever it spends the winter in the Big Creek Marsh.
However, the success of our fencing in keeping animals off the road has the negative effect of disrupting their traditional movements between the marsh and Long Point bay. We alleviate this problem in the fall, after the traffic diminishes, by opening gaps in the fencing to allow the animals to move to overwintering locations in the marsh or the bay. That’s why that snapper was on the road the other day.
But this is a stopgap measure. The real solution is the installation of ecopassages that will allow animals to pass safely under the road on a year-road basis. Together, the barrier fencing and ecopassages create a wildlife protection system that is more and more commonplace on roads with significant wildlife road mortality. For example, the Ministry of Transportation has installed dozens of these passages and miles of barrier fencing along the newly-completed sections of Highway 69.
For more details on the project and how the ecopassages will be built, I would refer members of Council to the brochure we have provided. I have additional copies for people attending here this evening.
For more than two years, we have been working with County staff and its team of consulting engineers to complete an Environmental Assessment and secure all of the other permits and approvals required for the installation of three such ecopassages along the Causeway.
This work has also included the actual design and engineering for the ecopassages, several studies required by various government agencies and the preparation of the tender documents for both the environmental assessment and the construction contracts.
Our group has paid for all of the costs associated with this work with funds we have raised from Environment Canada’s habitat stewardship program, Ontario’s Species at Risk Stewardship Fund, Shell Canada’s Environmental Foundation and the US Fish and Wildlife Commission. To date, we have spent about $180,000 and anticipate spending another $26,000 on the supervision and inspection of the construction work.
Unfortunately, the costs associated with all this work have been much higher than expected or completely unanticipated. For instance, we have had to spend over $20,000 to deal with comments on the Environmental Assessment from the Friends of the Causeway Association and MNR’s Aylmer District and another $24,000 on studies required by various government agencies. We have even had to prepare a second EA submission for the federal government because federal funding is supporting the project.
All told, we will have spent more than $156,000 just on the approval process alone.
As a result, we do not have all of the funding required to cover the entire $238,000 cost of the proposed construction contract. That is why county staff has recommended that Norfolk County contribute $58,000 towards the cost of construction.
As you know, our group has always intended to raise enough funds so that Norfolk county taxpayers would not have to contribute to the project. To that end, we have been able to secure more than $891,000 in funding over the past five years to support our work on the causeway. Norfolk taxpayers have not had to contribute to any of the work completed to date.
For our part, we are able to contribute $187,000 towards the construction of the ecopassages and another $18,000 to install fencing to link the passages to the existing fencing.
I am here this evening to ask that Council approve the $58,000 contribution by the County so that it may, in turn, award the construction contract to Anders Contracting, a Waterford company that has done many projects for the county.
It is absolutely critical that Council give the approvals this evening so that construction may proceed before the onset of winter. We cannot delay construction until next spring because much of the funding we have raised for this project must be spent before March 31, 2013.
I would ask Council to consider the $58,000 as an investment as well as expenditure. Much of the work we have done on the Environmental Assessment and various approvals and studies could be useful if the County undertakes future work to upgrade the Causeway.
For example, we were required to spend about $4,000 on two studies that found, perhaps to no one’s surprise, that the Causeway has no archeological or cultural heritage significance because it is simply an 80 year-old man-made road.
More seriously, I would also note that the three culverts will become County assets and are valued at nearly $240,000 including the cost of installation.
As the committee has permitted a representative of the FOCAS group to speak against the ecopassage project, I have a few comments. Firstly, I would advise Council that the Ministry of the Environment turned down a request by FOCAS to “bump up” the EA to a much more complex and costly schedule c process. To have done so would have been a colossal waste of time and taxpayers’ money.
I would also note that the MOE also did not accept FOCAS’ alternatives to the ecopassages or any of its other claims such as the ecopassages causing the draining of the big creek marsh.
Instead, the MOE approved this project based on the scientific credibility of what was proposed by the experts we consulted in preparing the EA document.
In closing, I would like to thank Norfolk County for the moral and in-kind support it has provided to this project over the past six years. In particular, I would like to thank John Hamilton, the County’s former manager of engineering who has just retired, and his staff, for their work on what has turned out to be a long and challenging process. I would also mention Bill Cridland, the County roads manager, and his staff for their support of our work.
Mr. Chairman, I would be pleased to answer any questions from the chairman or members of council.