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Funding announced to protect area’s battered shoreline

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Troy Shantz

Some relief is on the way for Sarnia’s eroding shorelines.

More than $20 million in government funding has been earmarked to reinforce and repair low-lying trouble spots along the St. Clair River and Lake Huron shore at Sarnia, officials said last week.

Five locations will be rehabilitated to protect the shore from further erosion and safeguard residents of Sarnia and St. Clair Township from high water and failing retaining walls.

The St. Clair Region Conservation Authority is providing $12.3 million and will oversee the work, with another $8 million coming from the federal disaster mitigation and adaptation fund.

The announcement comes as a city resident prepares to urge council Monday to take action to protect a stretch of heavily used public shoreline in Bright’s Grove between Mike Weir Park and the foot of Helen Street.

“Believe it or not we had 50 feet of sandy beach seven years ago,” said Bill Miller, whose property backs onto the public trail there, which was Old Lakeshore Road before the lake washed out most of in the 1970s.

The trail is used every day by hundreds of people but is at risk of disappearing if not protected, he said.

“This is city property and that’s what makes it so important to preserve this forever.”

Miller, 75, said Sarnia should borrow the money if necessary to halt the lake’s advance. A 2017 city staff report estimated the backlog of shoreline protection work would take $30.9 million to complete.

“Right now, borrowing costs are the lowest they’ve been in 75 years,” said the retired human resources manager. “It doesn’t make sense to me that we’re paying off debt when our infrastructure is deteriorating.”

Miller mailed 1,000 flyers to Bright’s Grove residents in a bid to rally support.

Ottawa said the new funding announced last week will more than pay for itself by saving existing roads and parks from expensive replacement.

“We are helping better protect residents of Sarnia and St. Clair against flooding and shoreline erosion while also greatly reducing the costs of recovery following extreme weather incidents,” said Liberal MP Kate Young.

The federal disaster mitigation fund is a $2-billion, 10-year program to help communities build infrastructure needed to withstand floods and other natural hazards.

Resident Bill Miller overlooks a section of eroded grassy bank in Bright’s Grove that broken off and is sliding toward Lake Huron.
Troy Shantz


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