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(Posted 9:30 a.m., Sept. 9)
Local councillor, mayor at odds over sinkhole
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

The Hwy. 174 sinkhole seems to be causing some dissention between Cumberland Coun. Stephen Blais and Mayor Jim Watson.

According to Blais, the stormsewer failure that caused the sinkhole could have been avoided if not for the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority desire to protect fish habitat during the spawning season.

The RVCA is a provincial agency entusted with protecting the provincial watersheds.including the natural resources within the watersheds themselves. In many instances their authourty supercedes that of the municipalities.

According to Blais, the city applied to put a lining inside the culvert back in February with the intent of doing the work between April 16 and July 31. Because the project impacted the flow of stormwater into the Ottawa River, the application needed the approval of the RVCA in order to go ahead.

The RVCA responded with a memo stipulating that no in-water work can occur between March 15 and July 1 of any given year in order to protect the local fish populations during the spawning season.

Blais suggests that the RVCA's directive is what resulted in the stormwater lining being delayed, ultimately resulting in the pipe's failure and subsequent sinkhole.

Mayor Watson, however, categorically refutes Blais' assertion. In a press release issued on Saturday, the Mayor states that they are "completely untrue".

"I have been informed by the city manager that if, at any time, our staff had been advised that the pipe was in danger of imminent collapse, then the work would have proceeded immediately under staff’s authority," says Watson, who goes on to suggest that any fingerpointing should wait until after the highway is reopened.

"There will be plenty of time in the coming months — after the highway is reopened — to review what happened to the culvert and what, if anything, could have been done differently."

A westbound OC Transpo bus drives by the Hwy. 174 sinkhole near Jeanne d'Arc Blvd. Fred Sherwin/Photo

(This story was made possible thanks to their generous support of our local business partners.)

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