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Boardwalk gets go ahead for low-level work

Masha Scheele

Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) confirmed on Friday morning, Sept. 11, that the Town of Hinton can go ahead with any low level maintenance in the Beaver Boardwalk area that was included in their Water Act application.

This confirmation allows the Town to finalize and begin mobilizing repair plans completed earlier in the year.

“As we were anticipating this decision, staff were primed for this announcement and preparation for work began on Friday. Activity will likely be seen in the area this week,” stated Josh Yaworski, Hinton’s communication coordinator.

These level one activities, that do not change any existing footprints beyond necessary maintenance, are excluded from requiring Water Act approval, he explained.

Prior to the official exclusion notice received on Friday, the Town had been directed that these types of activities did require approval.

The Town worked with AEP through supplemental information requests and site visits to ensure an understanding of the project and its interactions with relevant provincial policy, leading to this exclusion.

“A decision on the major repairs is still pending. We recently met with the Town to discuss which repairs require an approval under the Water Act and which do not. We continue to work with the Town towards an approval for the entirety of the project for a 10-year period,” stated Jason Penner, AEP communications advisor.

A timeline for a full approval of the Town’s Water Act application is still unknown.

Level one maintenance that is now permitted includes minor tasks with minimal impact to the surrounding areas, such as alignment and non-substantive maintenance within the existing footprint, according to the Town’s statement. 

Example activities include reinforcement, straightening/re-erecting of existing slouched section, and reinforcement of existing load bearing supports.

Parks and potential contracted employees are required to carry out manufacturing and construction type tasks outside of the wetland area to minimize impact. 

With winter quickly approaching, some work will be permissible, however until the application is fully approved, the Town will not seek quotes for those work types.

Due to the application dictating the scope of work, proceeding with additional work would not be a recommended use of resources. 

“Some of the higher level tasks can be completed while the lake is frozen. However, these higher level items are awaiting approvals, which are requiring further information,” Yaworski stated.

He added that after no decision on work plans have been made for levels two and three at this time and that the Beaver Boardwalk (BeBo) Committee will be scheduling a meeting in the next two weeks to discuss preparations for full approval.

The Water Act application, which was sent to AEP from the Town and Associated Engineering’s environment department on Oct. 28, 2019, assessed each work area to determine if minor repairs would be sufficient before considering intermediate and major repairs.

Impacts would be minimized in minor repairs by preparing wooden planks outside of the wetland and using tarps or drop cloths to catch any wood shavings or sawdust created while installing the upgrades.

Repairs will be performed without the use of machinery in the wetland and walking in the wetland will be avoided when repairs can safely be performed from the boardwalk or upland areas. 

Minor repairs include replacing screws, and installing sections of boardwalk using hand tools, this can be done from the boardwalk or by staff in waders.

The warping, slumping, and heaving boardwalk in various locations forced administration to close certain sections in the spring of 2019. 

After a public notice was posted about the application in the spring, the BeBo committee and AEP met and worked with individuals that sent letters of concern.

The application is currently considered to be in the supplemental information request phase. 

Drawings and surveys are required for the application to move forward and this process will also ensure that future applications have reference points for shifting locations and supports. 

This will likely see surveyors in the area in the near future.