Work on Brook Hill had to be redone after over 100 mm of rainfall caused washouts last week. – © René J. Roy / Wreckhouse Press Inc. Jaymie White, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

By the time dark clouds rolled away last Monday evening, July 24, the area had received over 100 mm of rain according to Environment Canada. The heavy rainfall came after Nova Scotia experienced unprecedented flooding.

“We had a lot of rain. We did get warnings that we may get volumes as high as they’ve seen in Nova Scotia, but luckily they weren’t,” said Town Manager Leon MacIsaac.

“Even with the rainfall, it still caused a lot of runoff damages. Contractors have been working on Warren’s Road, Brook Street and Matthews Road. Of course, Brook Street has a lot of washout issues over there. They’re getting prepped to get ready for the paving contractor to come, so they had to go back and redo that work all over again. It can’t be helped when that large volume of water goes downhill.”

The town’s water system struggled to handle that volume of water.

“There were a number of other streets that experienced washouts as well. And the system just can’t – I mean, we’ve had flooded basements – but the system just can’t handle that volume of water. You get sanitary systems, you got storm water infiltration into those systems, and the sanitary system is not meant to handle sanitary water and storm water,” explained MacIsaac.

“It was a lot. It can’t carry that volume, and at our lift station we have pumps, and the pumps can’t possibly keep ahead of the volume of water. When the pumps can’t keep ahead, it just backs up the system. Residents may feel that there’s something blocked when there’s not. It’s the volume of water that is overwhelming to the system.”

Even before the storm Brook Hill was undergoing a large amount of restoration, which required the entire street to be stripped.

“The whole road needed to be redone. There were a lot of potholes. Asphalt was peeling away. It was up and down for better lack of better word, like a lot of streets,” said MacIsaac.

“If you’re going to do one area, you do it all, get it all done. There’s a lot of pipes underneath the road that were kind of put haphazardly here and there over the years, so they’ve all been re-aligned, re-certified and we got it to an acceptable standard.”

The timeline for the paving contractors is still unknown.

“We’re still quite unsure. The rain here, same as everywhere else, is delaying the process of getting asphalt done,” explained MacIsaac.

“The contract for here, I’m not sure what his expected arrival date is. I know they’re delayed by several weeks. They’re currently in Central, I think, in the Birchie Lake area, paving. So when that project is completed, I would expect it’ll be here on the West coast.”

Gullages Drive is another area that experienced washouts during the rain.

“That was dug up and we’re waiting for the company to come back and reinstate the repair. I mean, our asphalt recycler doesn’t have capacity for that volume of asphalt, and we would only be paving, and it would have to be torn up and redone again,” said MacIsaac.

There was a previous issue with the line underneath the road, but that has already been repaired. 

“That was all replaced. That’s the reason why there’s gravel on one portion,” said MacIsaac. “The road up through there, even though the town has a sign on it and they plow it, it’s an easement through property that was given to NewTel years ago, and the town, over the years, just went through the process of keeping it cleared. It’s not actually owned by the town. NewTel owns it and has an access easement six metres wide through the property.”

There are other damages that have been noted by the town as well.

“There are gravel washouts, flooded basements. Again, it is the lift stations that can’t keep up to the volume of water, and we can’t possibly go around and tear up all roads, but in larger pipes because sanitary systems aren’t designed to carry storm water,” said MacIsaac.

“You’ve got separate storm water from sanitary. That will reduce sewer backup issues and everything into people’s homes, but that is a very large scope of work, and not just here. A lot of towns experience the same thing. They’ve found that they’ve got to separate storm water from sanitary because it takes all the stress out of the system or the majority of stress out.”

Rebecca LeRiche, owner of Starboard Side Guest House, said the damages to Gullages Drive have been detrimental to her business.

“It’s brutal. I try not to bother the town in between, because when they do (fill it in), it messes up the driveway more,” said LeRiche.

“The town does periodically come up and fill it in. Mind you, I have to call them. It doesn’t happen immediately. So people will be stuck up here till one or two in the afternoon sometimes, waiting to get down because they don’t want to beat up their vehicles. It affects me because I try to send business around town, like to Harborview and stuff like that. I mean, (when) the boat comes in, there’s only a few places open, but if I’m sending them downtown, they’re usually on foot. They want to go to Scott’s Cove and stuff like that, see the harbour, but if they trip up or whatever, they’re coming after me for insurance and stuff. I’m constantly stressed out because of insurance and how I’m already struggling. I don’t know how litigious people might be or whatever. I don’t generally know what people are like before they’re staying here. It only takes one slip and fall, and that would put me under right away.”

LeRiche has been dealing with the Gullages Drive issues for a long time.

“It’s been constantly eroding on both sides. I’ve lived here 15 years. I only owned the business for three, but I’ve lived here for 15, and it’s not the town’s fault, and I know that, but it should have been mitigated long ago, and this probably wouldn’t have happened,” said LeRiche.

“There is a culvert situation underneath. Those culverts were so old, they just corroded into themselves and collapsed, and when that happened, they came up, they tore up all the pavement, and they replaced all the culverts all the way up, not knowing that we were supposed to be hooked back into those culverts because we’re not hooked up on a sewer system yet. Apparently we had tar paper pipes or something, so they didn’t see our pipes. So we were left a full weekend we couldn’t flush our toilets or anything. It was coming back up into our basement because the sewer just stopped right outside of our house.”

The problem was compounded by the discovery of a spring.

“They knew that was going on. I let them know. So they tore that all up, I guess there’s a spring in front of our house. We didn’t know, and then once they tore it all up, that spring, I guess, was uncapped and all that water stayed at the corner of the house where that culvert patches into another one,” said LeRiche.

Despite the troubles, LeRiche has nothing but nice things to say about those working at the town office who have gone above and beyond to try to help, but the fact remains that it’s hurting her business.

“I have a group of 15 bikers coming that are probably going to have to cancel now. They were going to cancel anyways because of the gravel, but I keep telling them no, that the town says it’s going to be done and it’ll be paved, but Nadine explained that the paving company that put the bid in for is the one that’s taking its time getting here. They’re running behind on their projects or whatever,” said LeRiche.

“(The bikers) have the house rented for four or five days. They just want to spend time on the Southwest coast. I had them at the very end of this month, and then I got another cancellation for the first week of August. I asked them to move it up. So now they’re coming, I think on the fourth or the fifth. It’s a huge deadline for me, but even before that, I have all walks of life that come to stay with me. More of them are elderly. A lot of them have mobility issues. They stay with me because I have a ramp, and everything is usually on the first floor here.”

Sometimes the people who stay at Starboard Side Guest House have to park at the bottom of the road because the road hasn’t been filled in.

“I can’t provide proper security for their vehicles and things. So who’s on the line there? Am I on the line? If somebody breaks into their vehicle or sideswipes it, if they’re walking up from there and fall in that ditch or where it’s degraded underneath, that collapses, if they come up in their vehicle not knowing because there’s nothing blocking the road, like who’s on the hook for that?” asked LeRiche.

These issues started back in May.

“Everything started with a sinkhole and that was at the top of Gullages Drive here, but like just at the crest where my home starts,” explained LeRiche.

“So those culverts, I guess, were all some type of steel or alloy or something and they all collapsed. There was nothing really left to them. So that’s when that started, and the town did come up to repair. It took them a little bit of time, but they did come do it. I kept telling them this thing was starting to sink down, but I will say they were immediate in the attention coming up and letting me know what they were going to be doing.”

LeRiche hasn’t written a formal letter to council requesting that the roadwork be completed as soon as possible, but she has made multiple calls and sent messages.

“(Town Clerk) Nadine (Osmond) is really easy to talk to, and she has explained to me that the reason things aren’t done is they’re waiting for whoever they contracted for the asphalt machine, and that’s what they’re waiting on. As far as I’m concerned, this happens every year,” said LeRiche.

It’s the height of the summer tourism season and LeRiche is doing her best to compensate her guests for a situation over which she has no real control.

“I’m well into my season. Right now, my people are amicable. They are actually still trying to stay here, but park their vehicles down on the road. Mind you, I’m giving them percentages off. My rooms are $120 plus tax and I’m giving them 15 per cent off.”

LeRiche believes that some preventative maintenance might help prevent similar situations in the future .

“I don’t want to badmouth my town or my community, but I feel like, as a small business owner, even as a community member, people usually take precautions or try to stop things before they happen or if they notice things are going on. I feel like a lot of the issues with the roads and stuff around town – not just with my own, there’s roads around me as well – these issues, if they are taken care of before they get as bad as they do, then it wouldn’t be an issue. You wouldn’t be causing people anxiety and just problems,” said LeRiche.

“(Hurricane) Fiona (recovery), I’m sure, takes up a lot of funds. I understand all that, but at the same point, I pay my taxes just like every other road here, just like the newer roads they’re putting in and paving and things like that. I feel like we should be taken care of.”

LeRiche doesn’t think these issues were necessarily caused by the hurricane.

“I don’t think it’s a thing to do with the workmen or anything like that. I think it’s like these problems were here before Fiona. That’s the only way I can frame it. I do understand monetary concerns and stuff like that, but these problems were here last year before Fiona came,” said LeRiche.

“Was it a monetary problem then? Aren’t we supposed to be the gateway community? You pull into here coming from the train station, the pothole you have to avoid there, and that’s our only entrance to Port aux Basques off of the Trans Canada Highway. That’s shameful. I’m sorry, but it is.”

On the highway near the old town dump, a collapsing culvert has necessitated a bump warning sign. Even before the hurricane it was steadily growing worse, and since the rain last week passing through that section has been reduced to one Drive. Port aux Basques is aware of the issue, but it is the province that issued the tender for repair.

“I assume they’ve been waiting for the contractor as well,” said MacIsaac.

“That was only a matter of time. I came down early Saturday and I found that ditch in the road. It was quite large, and later that evening, early next morning, they shut it down because it eroded away so much.”

The Department of Transportation and Infrastructure issued the following statement in response to email inquiries:

“The Department of Transportation and Infrastructure is in the process of replacing the large culvert located approximately 10 kilometres east of Port Aux Basques. Detailed design work for this project was completed in 2022/23 and a $2,740,349.00 tender was awarded to JCL Investments Inc. on April 28, 2023.

“The contractor has ordered the large structural multi-plate culvert and it is scheduled to be onsite in the coming weeks. The tender also included the construction of a temporary two-Drive gravel bypass road to allow traffic to flow during construction.

“During this past weekend’s rainstorm, some erosion occurred around the culvert resulting in settlement and a dip in the highway, necessitating the closure of two of the three Drives. The department has installed traffic lights to facilitate traffic safely through the remaining Drive, and the contractor has returned to the site to complete the remaining guide rail, signage, and surface grading required to open the temporary bypass.”

The T’Railway system has also been shut down in areas due to the significant rainfall. The Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation has been forced to close it after sections were washed away near Cheeseman’s and McDougall’s.

“The public is advised that the T’Railway Provincial Park is closed between Heatherton and Port aux Basques in the southwest coast region. This closure is the result of washouts caused by heavy rain in the area this past weekend.

“The public is asked to report any damage or concerns related to the T’Railway to the Parks Division by emailing or by calling 709-637-2040.”

On Friday, July 28, a spokeperson for the department responded to email inquiries.

“The Department of Tourism, Culture Arts and Recreation is still assessing the damage to the T’Railway Provincial Park between Heatherton and Codroy Valley that was caused by last weekend’s heavy rainfall. The extent of the damage will determine the timeline for repairs.

The safety of those who use the T’Railway Provincial Park is of the utmost importance, and we urge users to respect the signage that has been put in place to advise of the closure.”

By Jaymie White, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jul 31, 2023 at 06:00

This item reprinted with permission from    Wreckhouse Weekly News    Port aux Basques, Newfoundland
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