The Members of Maitland Conservation have decided to move forward with the process of decommissioning the dam and site cleanup at Gorrie Conservation Area.
The berm on the south side of the dam was damaged in a flood in June of 2017. Since that time Maitland Conservation has been working with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) and engineering consultants to assess options for the structure.
A report by Greck and Associates was presented to the membership in November of 2018. This report outlined the studies required to undertake the repair, rebuilding or decommissioning of the dam. The report also provided rough estimates of the costs associated with these options. Maitland Conservation has posted this report on their website at mvca.on.ca . The Members recently passed a motion to proceed with the next steps in decommissioning the Gorrie Dam and repairing the damage to the Conservation Area grounds caused by the 2017 flood.
David Turton, Chair of Maitland Conservation, reports that there are several reasons for this decision, with cost being a critical factor.
“The cost to try and repair or replace the dam is prohibitive,” he said. “Back in the 1970’s an engineering assessment recommended that the dam not be repaired due to unstable soils beneath the structure. The dam is now 40 years older and the concrete is deteriorating.”
“It’s unlikely that there will be any provincial funding available to assist the Conservation Authority with the repair or replacement of the dam. We don’t even have any assurances that funding will be available to assist with decommissioning the structure. In addition, it’s a recreational dam with no flood control role,” he said. “From an environmental perspective decommissioning will improve the health of the river and provide better fish and wildlife habitat.”
Megan Gibson, Township of Howick Councillor and Maitland Conservation Member, understands the community’s attachment to the mill pond but believes the reality of funding constraints must guide decisions about the site.
“Neither Maitland Conservation or the Township of Howick have the funding and staff resources to rebuild or properly fix the dam,” she said. “In my opinion the only solution is to decommission the dam. I would have loved to see it rebuilt but that’s just not feasible. I believe that with decommissioning and landscaping at the site it will still be a beautiful spot for the community to enjoy.”
The process of decommissioning the dam is expected to be a lengthy one. The MNRF requires Maitland Conservation to undertake studies to determine if the removal of the dam will affect river flows, development or structures downstream. The MNRF may request additional studies as the process moves forward. Once the studies are completed, Members will then make a decision on whether a full decommissioning or a partial decommissioning of the dam (portions of the dam structure remain in place) will be undertaken. Decommissioning of the dam may not proceed without approval from the MNRF.
In the short term, Maitland Conservation staff are working on site maintenance at the Conservation Area. The removal of dead trees has been completed, grass cutting is being done on the north side of the river and phragmites control will also be undertaken this fall.
David Turton, Chair
Stewart Lockie, Conservation Areas Coordinator
519-335-3557 ext. 234