It’s been a challenging task that’s taken two years, but the town is now ready with the land it needs to move forward on its flood mitigation strategy – both short and long term.
The town, in conjunction with its legal team, has acquired 18 properties and secured two easements since early 2017 as part of the Lorne Street flood control project, with one more deal still being finalized.
“Obviously we’re very pleased we’re nearing completion,” Jamie Burke, Sackville’s manager of corporate projects, told town council during its recent monthly meeting. “This has been almost a two-year complicated process with a variety of land transactions and complexities as part of each and every one.”
The final price tag sits at $373,900, an expenditure that has been financed through the town’s reserve funds and capital-out-of-revenue account. Although the municipality received funds for the flood control project under the federal Clean Water and Wastewater program, Burke explained land acquisitions are not part of the eligible expenses under the fund.
He said the lengthy process has been complicated and frustrating at times, as some of the land deals were more difficult than expected. And it’s never easy to do these transactions in a small town in an efficient way while also protecting taxpayer funds, he said.
“What we tried to do as best we could is work with each property owner in a reasonable way and get what we thought was a fair price, both for them and for us as we moved along through this process.”
He said attaining these properties will put the town in a position to not only complete the revised plan for phase two of the project that is currently under way, but will also allow for the municipality to move ahead with the proposed longer-term solution in the future when funding becomes available.
The long-term proposal includes two large retention ponds – one at St. James Street and the other behind Sackville’s community garden – and new drainage pipes and ditches that will lead to a new double-gated aboiteau structure in behind the town’s public works building. The town had to abandon that plan, however, and go back to the drawing board to come up with a new solution when bids for the project came in significantly over budget.
The current plan, which was recently approved by council, calls for construction of only one retention pond on St. James, which will connect to existing ditching systems along Lorne Street and towards Crescent Street and use a provincially-owned aboiteau to release the water into the Tantramar River.
Mayor John Higham praised town staff for the work they did on this file, and in resolving the challenges in acquiring the land, saying it was “much more complex than we thought it would be.”
Several of the properties recently purchased, north of St. James Street and east of Lorne behind Marshlands Inn, will in fact be used for a new pond that will be built by Ducks Unlimited this spring and have some storage capacity (about 8,600 cubic metres) during severe storms.
The DU pond was first brought as a proposal to the town in the fall of 2017 when the flood control project was being discussed, said town engineer Dwayne Acton.
The six-acre pond will serve as an addition to the nearby Sackville Waterfowl Park and would feature a walking trail and interpretive signage.
“Essentially, it would be an extension of our waterfowl park, very similar to what you’d see if you’re out walking on our existing waterfowl park,” he said.
Acton said DU has requested to use some of the soil from the current St. James Street site that is being dug up for use as a retention pond to construct a three-foot berm in their smaller pond. He said DU will hire a contractor in the spring to build and shape the berm to control water levels in the pond. The organization will also be responsible for maintaining the pond through a 25-year renewable lease with the town.
The town will look after putting a walking trail on top of the berm along with interpretive signs.