FORMOSA – This spring, Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority (SVCA) did not fill the Varney pond, located on a 4.6 hectare property just south of Durham. The property offers day use amenities to the public; the pond has been a popular swimming area for many years.

As stated in a report by Elise MacLeod, water resources manager, historically the pond is filled with water each spring through a temporary diversion of a Camp Creek tributary, and drained each fall.

An organization-wide structural review indicated this process may be in violation of certain regulations, and in May, the SVCA board passed a motion to suspend filling the pond until further notice. The report stated the decision was made to allow staff to look into the condition of the small dam and investigate environmental approvals.

At the July 20 board meeting, an update on the Varney pond was presented in closed session, and subsequently discussed in open session, with several community members in attendance.

The report stated that staff have been in contact with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and continue to work with them. Staff have also contacted the Ministry of Transportation.

D. M. Wills Associates completed an inspection of the pond, including the inlet structure, berm, outlet structure and jumping structure. While the dam was generally in good condition, there were safety concerns including inadequate railings on the outlet structure, and sharp edges on the inlet grating. The report noted jumping from the outlet structure may lead to injuries because the pond is quite shallow. Also outlined was the possibility of being drawn toward the outlet grate – there was a documented drowning caused by someone getting sucked into the outlet pipe.

Among the recommendations was a high priority item – preparing a public safety risk assessment and safety plan. In addition, the Wills report recommended blocking access to the jumping platform, consulting with the local building official for swimming and fencing requirements, and adding public safety signage. Cost would be $22,500.

There are additional longer-term recommendations that include preparing a dam safety assessment, and replacing the grate into the pond and deteriorated concrete on the outlet structure.

MacLeod’s report to the board stated the key recommendation from the Wills assessment was not to fill the pond until appropriate permissions have been granted from a number of environmental agencies – described as “one of many recommendations needed to ensure the pond’s safety.”

Meanwhile, as recommended, the pond remains unfilled.

By Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Aug 04, 2023 at 07:15

This item reprinted with permission from   The Herald-Times   Walkerton, Ontario
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