During its special meeting on March 9, Champlain Township council conferred with Robinson Consultants Inc. about its engineering report regarding the Mill Creek Drain.
Council voted to send the report back, as some sections needed to be reconsidered. Engineers acknowledged that a 50-metre right of way for construction and a 25-metre right of way allowance for future maintenance would disproportionately impact residential lots compared to agricultural properties.
Work on the Mill Creek Drain began in 2016 when a landslide resulted in some emergency repairs to the drain area, but due to abnormal increases in the flow of water in the region, engineers sent to assess the damage said the entire drainage area needs to be redone.
The area experiences heavy rainfall more often than it did in 1974, when the last engineering report was done, and several natural protections against flooding have been removed, such as trees and moss. The drain has become overwhelmed and needs to be updated to fit the township’s current needs.
Work on the drain will affect around 700 properties in the township spanning 6,695 hectares, allowing excess water to drain off quicker and more efficiently. Each property has been assessed according to several factors, such as size of the property, proximity to the drain, and the overall benefit to the property.
Engineering consultants then assigned a cost to each property owner to help pay for the $2,271,177 project. The costs assigned range from under $100 to tens of thousands of dollars.
Some property owners objected and said that agricultural landowners should pay more since they would benefit the most, but the engineers assured that overall, agricultural properties would in fact be paying the most. Each individual landowner may be paying less than expected, but the sheer amount of agricultural land ensures that farms will be paying the majority of the cost.
Other landholders asked why everyone in the township wasn’t paying a share towards the project. The Ontario Drainage Act states that municipal drains are maintained by the owners of the properties that they benefit. The more excess water that drains off a property and the closer it is to the municipal drain, the higher the benefit. Owners of properties not affected by the drain are not obliged to contribute to the costs.
Some residents questioned whether the entire project must be done at once, or if part of the work could be completed to help spread out some of the cost. The engineers had considered this and concluded that doing just part of the work would worsen the problem. A large portion of the project cost involves removing rock that is preventing the drain from being lowered and that work which must be done now.
Now that the township and property owners know that the work is necessary, they will be held liable if the drainage system causes flooding downstream because the repairs were not done.
Residents asked whether that liability would extend to extraordinary amounts of flooding beyond reasonable expectation. The engineers replied that the goal is to minimize flood damage as much as possible if it cannot be eliminated. The liability would still fall upon the township and its residents.
Council voted to send the report back for reconsideration of the two right-of-way allowances and expects to have a revised report for review within a month.