The Elk River Pedestrian Bridge in Sparwood could be at risk without mitigation works. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Sparwood applies for erosion mitigation funding

The Elk River Pedestrian Bridge is at risk due to erosion

The District of Sparwood has applied for a grant from the province’s Community Emergency Preparedness Fund to shore up the river bank on the south side of the Elk River Pedestrian Bridge.

According to a report from Sparwood’s director of engineering, Danny Dwyer, erosion of the river bank since 2013 has put the bridge and infrastructure in the area at risk, with potential losses to the community and district projected to be high if nothing is done.

“Failure of the south abutment could result in loss of one potable water connection to Sparwood Proper, loss of pedestrian access between Sparwood Heights and Sparwood Proper and discharge of raw sewerage into the Elk River,” said the report.

A previous application in 2019 for $510,000 to carry out works to mitigate the erosion was unsuccessful, with the district councillors voting to try again in 2020 for $750,000 – though this time more areas are included.

Since the first application failed, the district identified a second area where flood mitigation works needed to be carried out further downstream, with railway lines at risk.

“Should this area of the riverbank fail the only legal public access to the west side of the CPR tracks could be lost or put at risk,” said the report.

The grant is for the costs of works to be covered 100 per cent.

Dwyer said that erosion had been significant over the years.

‘The bank since the bridge was constructed has eroded approximately 17 metres,” he said. “Every year it takes away more, so hopefully we get (the grant) this year.”

Councillors voted unanimously to support the grant application.

“I hope we get it this year,” said Sparwood Mayor David Wilks, “otherwise some year it’s going to cost a lot more than $750,000.”

Consultation will take place with community groups if the grant is successful, and Dwyer reported that timing of the grant announcement would impact whether the works could be carried out in 2021, “as there is a lengthy environmental application process for work in and about the stream and typical fishery windows in the Elk River in this area are only in August.”

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