REPORTING · 24th October 2012
Duck Creek Bridge has reached the end of its lifespan. Rio Tinto Alcan has put a sign up advising people to use the bridge at their own risk.
In a letter to Kitimat City Council, Kevin Dobbin of Rio Tinto Alcan stated: “the Option we are leaning toward now is closing the bridge, but need to make sure all of the options have been looked at. Right now most of the options we have looked at are close to 200k.” He was contacting Surespan with a plan.
Council also received a letter from Brian Wakita continuing the story. The plan which Surespan came up with was to bring in a forestry bridge with a deck put on it for $30,000. However, Rio Tinto did not meet the timeline so a rental bridge had to be installed. This brings the cost to $33,000 to replace the bridge now, plus an additional $15,000 to complete the rest of the work at a later date once groups have been able to get some funds together.
The District of Kitimat has been aware of this problem since October 2nd. The Duck Creek Bridge connects Kitimat to an alternate route for leaving town, should something go wrong with the highway.
A special meeting of Council was called on October 22nd to deal with the issue.
“There was a proposal made to RTA for a permanent solution with a really short timeline. This was in the last month,” said Wakita. “[Surespan] gave RTA an estimate priced for $30,000 and it had a short, short timeline and the timeline has expired unfortunately as RTA didn’t have the funds or the time to put into the bridge at the present while Surespan was here,” said Wakita.
Wakita explained Surespan choose to put in a rental bridge which will be too expensive to leave behind. The rental bridge is nothing more than a span on top of the old one. Surespan will install the new bridge for $33,000, which includes the price of removing the temporary fix.
Wakita explained there are two problems. One is beaver habitat, the other is fisheries habitat. The Bridge is going to require an environmental review which could cost $15,000 as well as the additional work which is estimated at $15,000.
Wakita asked the District of Kitimat for $33,000 to remove the existing bridge and put the new one into place. Later, other companies can put their heads together to come up with $30,000 for the rest of the work to make the bridge permanent.
“Surespan needs to know by November 1st to pursue this other one because they have a 32 day construction schedule and there is some prep time to order that other bridge, get the decking made and installed and shipped up here,” said Wakita.
He said if they don’t, Surespan will take the temporary structure down and put it back in place. Wakita also pointed out the new bridge will be able to hold 75 Tonnes so it would be useful for Enbridge, Shell and Apache and anyone else using the road.
Chad Fournier from the Kitimat Snowmobile and Hiking Club spoke next. He said a lot of work has been put into the Claque Mountain recreation area, notably the new cabin on the mountain.
“We will definitely be negatively impacted if a speedy solution isn’t come to on the remediation of this bridge. We’re getting into the winter season now and if there’s nothing in place for the near future and looking down the road, we run the risk of losing the use of that cabin,” said Fournier.
Peter Ponter spoke on his own behalf, as a member of a hiking and snowshoeing group. He has been to the cabin 8 times this year. He said there is a logbook in the cabin which is half full and people who go up there do not always stop at the cabin or signs the book.
“There are a lot of people using that area. I would suspect it is the most used wilderness area specific site in Kitimat just because it is so close. It is the easiest place to get to alpine for people,” said Ponter.
He also pointed out this was a secondary exit from Kitimat if the highway was closed. Mayor Joanne Monaghan stated she did not know if this is still the case.
Councillor Mary Murphy wanted to know if any of the other industries had been approached to rebuild the bridge. She was told RTA was working on it. Councillor Mario Feldhoff clarified who owns the road and the structures. He was told it is a forest service road which goes through Rio Tinto Alcan’s Property.
Councillor Phil Germuth clarified the bridge could be gone this winter. Fournier stated if Alcan deems it so, it will be closed. Germuth clarified the cost at $63,000. Wakita explained the first $33,000 is to secure the bridge, get it to Kitimat and put it in place. The $33,000 would buy some time for other interested parties to raise the $30,000 to make the new bridge permanent and have an environment impact study done.
Germuth wanted to clarify why they would not need to go through fisheries to simply put the bridge in. He was told they would not be impacting the wildlife until the foundations go in. Council was also told the span was not a permanent solution because it could do damage to the bridge and bring it down over time.
Monaghan confirmed there is a gravel pit back there. She asked if anyone else was using the road for industry but it was not known. She was told Apache is active on the road right now.
Fournier told Council in today’s world of ATVs people will find a way around the bridge. However, this makes it harder for them to be rescued should something go wrong.
Germuth clarified Alcan knows they could put a temporary bridge in for $33,000. Wakita replied Alcan does not have the time or the funds to do it. He pointed out they are a multinational company.
Councillor Edwin Empinado made sure Alcan knew Wakita was coming to the District. The response was yes. Empinado followed up with a second question: “How does that relationship when that area is not ours. How do you discuss…”
He was told to get the deal, the bridge had to go in quickly. Monaghan thanked them for their presentation.
Councillor Corinne Scott made a motion for discussion later in the meeting asking for administrative input on this. She expressed there was a lot of money at stake here but the lack of a bridge would affect a lot of members of the community. She compared it to when Council provided money to Shames Mountain to help with their operations.
“This is providing another group of our residents with outside recreation on land that doesn’t belong to us. It’s similar to Shames Mountain. However, $33,000 is a lot of money,” said Scott.
She said they have also paid $30,000 to Shames but wanted administration to find out where Council was in their budget. She wanted to see it done.
CAO Ron Poole said there was not enough information to make this decision. He agreed they needed to know what level they should be contributing. He also said November 1st was a quick deadline and he wanted to talk to Rio Tinto about their involvement because he did not want to part with the full $33,000. He also suggested other companies could join in.
Murphy and Goffinet agreed. Goffinet did not want to make a decision with two weeks’ notice. He hoped the November 1st deadline was flexible if they could bring a team together.
Germuth pointed out the District knew about it since October 2nd but he first found out last week. October 2nd was prior to the Council’s meeting with Alcan and it could have been brought up there and dealt with.
Poole stated it was being dealt with at Alcan. However, the second option came out of nowhere. Empinado stated he was concerned with the agreement which would have to be made with Alcan in the case Council pours in the money.
Murphy made a motion for staff to meet with Rio Tinto Alcan to discuss this and look for options. Goffinet added any interested parties into the discussion of the replacement of the Bridge. This motion was called and carried.