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'Eating a massive bill here': Barrie may spend 'millions' to curb flooding issues around Bear Creek

Long-term solution for Marta Crescent residents will require 'significant capital investment', senior city staffer says


By Chris Simon Barrie Advance

Wednesday, August 16, 2023


Dam it.


Barrie council approved a recommendation Aug. 16 to increase funding related to the construction of a temporary coffer dam dewatering initiative near Bear Creek wetland.


The plan calls for an additional $750,000 — $350,000 on one-time capital works this year and $400,000 in the draft 2024 operating budget for ongoing maintenance — to be spent to help protect nearly a dozen homes on Marta Crescent that were built about a decade ago.


Council previously committed $150,000 to dam construction.


“Property owners on Marta have been reporting that the water in the wetland has been rising over the years,” Tom Reeve, water and wastewater planning senior project manager, said in a report to councillors. “The elevated level means there is now standing water in the backyards of some homes on Marta. Residents are concerned with this water from a safety, esthetic and enjoyment perspective.”


However, this may just be the start of spending.


“I want to make sure we’re going to see an actual flow of water out of here,” Mayor Alex Nuttall said. “This is going to cost a lot of money to fix, in the millions of dollars. If framed one way, there’s wetland creep into backyards. If framed the other way, there’s homes built on a wetland. This is a planning issue from a long time ago — something I probably voted on back in the day — that is costing a lot of money to the city and pain to the residents. We need to be wary of allowing development in places where it doesn’t look like it’s going to have a long-lasting plan. The city and taxpayers are eating a massive bill here.”


The short-term dam solution will isolate the backyards from the wetland and pump water out of the area. However, the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority must grant permits before the work can begin.


“Due to the unknowns around a complex, natural system like a wetland, and the unique nature of the solution, there are some uncertainties around performance,” he said. “Neither staff nor (a) consultant can estimate how long the initial pumping to dewater the area will take. Once constructed, this will require ongoing operations and maintenance. There will be the need for regular inspection and operation of the pumps to remove water that will continue to infiltrate into the area and that will accumulate after a rainfall.”


The problem area is east of Marta, north of Summerset Drive and west of Gore Drive.


Main drivers for the change include sediment carried from Ardagh Bluffs, which has filled in a portion of Henderson Creek, and the increasing prevalence of phragmites — an invasive grass, which has spread extensively and releases toxins at the root, hindering the growth of native plants.


City staff is looking into long-term solutions to restore the creek and minimize flooding issues on downstream properties, but those will “take many years and significant capital investment to implement,” Reeve said.


Staff will also be required to prepare a report on the initiative for the city's infrastructure community investment committee in about a year.

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