Analysis paralysis

IMG_0156
Pine Lake swimming hole, c. 1957

I’ve made it my rule during the Hudson election campaign to refrain from commenting on partisanship eruptions in races that don’t concern me.

But that doesn’t mean biting my tongue when it comes to setting the record straight.

By my rough estimate, the outgoing administration has spent well over $100,000 on studies and inspections to the Pine Lake dam and Cameron culverts. Analysis paralysis, one District 5 resident called it yesterday during my door-to-doors.

There’s a consensus that Hudson needs its iconic pond back, but not at any cost. Many  are enthusiastic about getting involved in the reconstruction, just as the original Pine Lake dam was built. Rent some heavy equipment and get everyone out with shovels and wheelbarrows for a traditional Hudson workbee.

Before someone suggests yet another study by yet another engineering firm, here’s the definitive analysis of the situation carried out by an unpaid team of Hudson residents, many of them unquestioned authorities in their respective fields. I would suggest that anyone pretending to be an expert should take the time to read it.

Pine Lake Scenarios report

PINE LAKE WORKING GROUP:

Sheila Britt, Germain Laporte, Martin Lechowicz and Ken Walker

(with input from Tom Birch and the late Gordon Thompson)

 

The original mandate of our working group as recorded in the minutes of our meeting of 3 December 2014 with the Director General at that time (Catherine Haulard) was “…to provide Council with a recommendation as to what type of dam(s) could be constructed taking into account various factors that have bearing on the choice of a type of structure”. Furthermore: “The objective is not to determine if a dam should be built or not but that if one were built it would be the committee’s mandate to indicate which concept would be the most appropriate. The Town will ultimately decide the scope of building and the type of dam.” Our mandate was expanded in a meeting on 12 January 2016 during a discussion with Jean-Pierre Roy, the present Director General, to include consideration of leaving the broken dam in place, removing the broken dam without replacement, as well as various options to repair or replace the dam. Mr. Roy recently convened a ‘group of seven’ from the town staff to evaluate our review of options (i.e. scenarios), which should be delivered no later than March 2016.

This document presents six scenarios intended to frame the discussions of the ‘group of seven’, including 1) an outline of each scenario, 2) necessary considerations in evaluating each scenario, 3) tasks required to complete the evaluation, and 4) our scoring of the scenario based on currently available information. The scores are based on our working evaluation of: 1) ecological integrity and efficacy in flood regulation, 2) aesthetics and provision of public amenities, 3) construction and operating costs, 4) legal and regulatory constraints, and 5) work required to finalize plans and cost estimates. We emphasize that our scores are tentative and are likely to change to some degree as the additional information we have called for becomes available.

We note that during our discussions we have been cognizant of the September 1984 motion in council by which the town took responsibility for Pine Lake. Given subsequent changes in the regulatory environment governing dams and public works associated with wetlands, however, we decided to consider a wide range of options without necessarily being bound by the sometimes conflicting or constraining terms of the 1984 motion. As the mayor and council have the ultimate responsibility to do what is best for the present and future citizens of Hudson, we leave it to them to reconcile the spirit of the 1984 motion with the scenarios we present.

All members of our working group, past and present, are residents of Hudson; we possess a wide range of professional and personal experience relevant to our mandate:

  •   Tom Birch is a former town councilor with an IT background and involvement in venture capital initiatives who contributed to our early discussions, but was unable to stay involved.
  •   Sheila Britt has worked in business administration; she lives on the shore of the former Pine Lake and has clearly represented the concerns of lakeshore residents in our discussions.
  •   Germain Laporte has a background in public policy and procurement issues in the federal government, including experience in tendering and evaluation of bids.
  •   Martin Lechowicz is a McGill university professor studying environmental linkages between rivers and their watershed, including flood risk and water quality issues.
  •   Gordon Thompson (recently deceased) was a civil engineer and founding CEO of a large consulting company engaged in environmental management.
  •   Ken Walker is a mechanical engineer and former vice-president in the pulp and paper industry with some experience in construction of dams.

We are grateful for the assistance of the town clerk, Vincent Maranda, who participated in our discussions and played a liaison role to the town administration. Anna Luz in Martin Lechowicz’s research group conducted the GIS analyses to create the images depicting the various scenarios.

Some general considerations

Throughout our discussions we recognized that the problem at hand is not simply a question of the restoration of Pine Lake. Although the dam on Pine Lake was initially built by local residents during the 1940s to create a recreational amenity, the dam also altered the normal flow of the Viviry River and functioned as a flood control structure during intense rainstorms and periods of rapid snowmelt in spring. All dams prevent the normal downstream flow of sediments, which steadily accumulate in the impoundment behind the dam. Over time the accumulating sediments reduced the ecological health and aesthetic quality of Pine Lake as well as the ability of the dam to function in flood control.

The dam on Pine Lake failed during a flood event. Because of this, as well as ongoing climate change, flood control has loomed large in our consideration of the options available to address the April 2014 failure of the Pine Lake dam. The peak flows during flood events in coming decades inevitably will be greater than in the past because: 1) future land development within the watershed of the Viviry River will increase runoff and sedimentation rates and 2) the frequency of intense rainstorms that pose the most serious flood risks will increase because of climate change. Hence, we cannot simply replace the failed dam, which was designed and built in 1990 to norms that are no longer viable. We must find an affordable and effective solution that both restores the amenity value of the lake basin and reduces the present and future risk of damage due to flooding.

REFERENCE DOCUMENTS
Available consulting reports done for the town of Hudson
EXP – May 2014 Barrage ruisseau Viviry – Étude préliminaire. 29 pages
AMEC – June 2014 Étude hydrologique du bassin versant de la riviére Viviry au Lac Pine. 64 pages GHD – September 2015. Étude géotechnique : Reconstruction du barrage du ruisseau Viviry. 45 pages.

Selected scientific literature on climate change impacts in the context of Quebec

Huard, David, Diane Chaumont, Travis Logan, Marie-France Sottile, Ross D. Brown, Blaise Gauvin St-Denis, Patrick Grenier & Marco Braun. (2014). “A decade of climate scenarios: the Ouranos consortium modus operandi.” Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 95: 1213-1225.

Ouranos (2015). Vers l’adaptation. Synthèse des connaissances sur les changements climatiques au Québec. Édition 2015. Montréal, Québec : Ouranos. 415 p.

N.B. The source for the most up to date and authoritative information on climate change and climate change impacts in Quebec is Ouranos (http://www.ouranos.ca/en/), a consortium of over 450 government, university and industry scientists created in 2002 (http://www.mddelcc.gouv.qc.ca/communiques_en/2002/Ouranos-communique-

Status quo, riverside meadow

 

Figure 1. Pine Lake basin on 18 June 2014, two months after the dam failed. During summer 2014 the lake bed was colonized by meadow grasses and wildflowers, which persisted in 2015. The damaged dam is in place, and flood waters have partially and temporarily refilled the lake basin during intense rainstorms in 2014 and 2015.

Note that the Viviry River flows through the drained lakebed and a major tributary (Black Creek) flows under Cameron Road into the lake basin to join the Vivery just upstream of the present dam site. This is noteworthy because the Black Creek sub-basin accounts for30%oftheViveryRiverwatershed,whichsignificantlyincreasestheamountoffloodwaterreachingthepresentdamsite. In consideration of ongoing climate change this is worrisome in that only 27% of the Black Creek drainage basin is in Hudson — we do not control land development in the other 73% of the sub-basin that lies in St-Lazare and Vaudreuil-Dorion. Runoff and sedimentation into Black Creek will increase as land is developed in the sub-basin. Hence flood risk is likely to increase in future.

This scenario would LEAVE THE OLD DAM IN PLACE, which is the situation that has prevailed since April 2014. Based on ecological principles, old photos from before the dam was built, and vegetation presently upstream from the lake basin, the river shore likely will become a grassy meadow. Eventually an alder thicket will develop near the river edge and in low areas prone to flooding, and higher ground that is less likely to flood will be colonized by upland tree species. The riverside meadow and alder thickets will flood during storm events and snowmelt, conferring some degree of flood mitigation downstream. In the long run there is likely to be damming by beavers on the stretch of the river between St-Charles Road and Cameron Road; their dams will further reduce the peak flow during flood events.

Considerations

  1. This may not really be an option — we do not know if the ministry would allow leaving the stream obstructed by the old dam, or what requirements might be imposed in that case.
  2. If the damaged dam can be left in place it still needs to be stabilized and its ramshackle appearance made more presentable; the cost of this work is unknown.
  3. Some additional stabilization of the shoreline immediately adjacent to the dam will be required, i.e. along the berm on public land along Cameron Road and on Cynthia Maher’s property. The cost of this sort of work was included in the estimates prepared in May 2014 by EXP (cf. alternative #4)
  4. The dam in its present condition provides modest and unregulated flood control, which means peak floods in the future might cover Cameron Road at the Black Creek culvert, impeding traffic and weakening the roadbed.Flood risks are likely to increase in future due to both ongoing climate change and land development within the watershed
  1. The Cameron Road culvert and especially the Black Creek culvert may need to be replaced. The town will have responsibility to clear sediment and ensure good downstream flow in both culverts. Failure to maintain flow in these culverts poses some risk of the river washing out the roadbed during a flood event.
  2. We do not know if the ministry would allow routine clearing of sediment in culverts; restrictions may be imposed that complicate the work and increase the expense of sediment removal.
  3. At some point sediments will have accumulated in the lake basin to a point where dredging and recontouring of the old lake basin may be required to maintain even modest flood control; this work will require regulatory approval.

Tasks

  1. Do current Quebec and federal regulations allow leaving the broken dam in place? If so, what would be the cost to stabilize and approve the appearance of the structure?
  2. Would current Quebec and federal regulations allow routine, unrestricted cleaning of sediment in the culverts under Cameron Road? If sediment removal is allowed by government, then the frequency and costs of this routine work should be estimated and responsibility assigned to someone on the town staff.
  3. What liability, if any, does the town bear for any loss of property value associated with a failure to restore Pine Lake? What would be the consequent costs?
  4. Are there any government or public-private programs available for cost-sharing associated with this scenario?
  5. If this scenario were to be implemented, what would be the total estimated cost of the immediate work, including

    interest paid on any loan required to complete the work? The operating costs over time?

  6. How would the cost be shared between subsidies, taxes levied on the town as a whole, and taxes levied on residents whose properties abut the lake?

Summary

Of all the scenarios, this one probably has the least financial cost in terms of immediate work and also in subsequent operational costs, but Pine Lake will not be restored. Hence there are political issues as well as questions of liability and recompense to nearby property owners to be considered.

 

Scenario 2: Remove the old dam, ± create a riverside park

REMOVE THE FAILED DAM: This scenario involves removing the failed dam at an estimated cost of at least ~$147,970 (cf. EXP consultation – May 2014), which will result in a free-flowing river; the riverside could either be left unmanaged or managed as a riverside park. Once the dam is removed, the Cameron roadbed with its culvert restricting high flow rates could essentially act as a check dam so long as the roadbed and shoulder were properly reinforced. That would back up some water to flood the riverside meadow during peak flow, but that temporary impoundment in turn would reduce the risk of downstream flooding.

Considerations:

  1. The EXP cost estimate for dam removal already includes some stabilization of the river channel and banks to withstand erosion during floods as the river flow converges on the culvert under Cameron Road.
  2. There will be ongoing operating costs to keep the culvert under Cameron Road clear of sediment to ensure good flow during storm and snowmelt events.
  3. Ministry approval will be required for the work to remove the dam, and perhaps also for any regular sediment clearance in the culvert.
  4. The risk of flooding Cameron Road at the Black Creek culvert should be assessed by a qualified professional; the roadbed and adjacent terrain may need to be raised in this low-lying section and the capacity of the Black Creek culvert increased. The EXP report did not consider this point; this section of road has flooded in the past.
  5. Any work on Cameron Road at Black Creek will block access to the village center; a detour at Mount Pleasant will be impossible, so only Bellevue and St. Charles will provide village access during the construction work.
  6. Since flood risks will increase in future due to ongoing climate change and land development, raising this section of Cameron Road and improving flow through the Black Creek culvert may be necessary. The costs and benefits would need to be evaluated, as well as the degree of urgency of the work.
  7. If substantial construction work were to be done along Cameron Road, there would be an opportunity to use available earth moving equipment to recontour areas adjacent to the river in order to convert the riverside into a public park. With proper redistribution of lakebed sediments parts of the park could be above flood levels and other parts allowed to flood to reduce downstream flood risks during storm and snowmelt events. Professional consultation would be required to coordinate the recontoured surface with the redesign of culverts or bridges on Cameron Road.

8. A sediment analysis would be required before moving and/or removing materials in the former lake bed, and the work would require ministry approval.

Tasks:

  1. If the lake bed sediments are to be disturbed, it may be necessary to provide the ministry a sediment analysis before any work will be approved. Inquiries should be made to the ministry regarding the requirements.
  2. If sediments are contaminated, the ministry could force their removal and proper disposal – consequent costs should be estimated.
  3. Would current Quebec and federal regulations allow routine, unrestricted cleaning of sediment in the culverts under Cameron Road? If sediment removal is allowed by government, then the frequency and costs of this routine work should be estimated.
  4. The risk of flooding over Cameron Road at the Black Creek culvert should be evaluated and necessity and urgency of remedial work considered.
  5. If a riverside park were to be developed, what would be the cost of its design, construction and maintenance?
  6. What liability, if any, does the town bear for any loss of property value associated with a failure to restore Pine Lake?
  7. Are there any government or public-private programs available for cost-sharing associated with this scenario?
  8. If this scenario were to be implemented, what would be the total estimated cost of the immediate work, including interest paid on any loan required to complete the work? The operating costs over time?
  9. How would the cost be shared between subsidies, taxes levied on the town as a whole, and taxes levied on residents whose properties abut the lake?

Summary

If the ministry requires removal of the damaged dam, we will be forced to assess and mitigate any risks to Cameron Road and/or downstream flood risks. There could be an opportunity to develop a riverside park for public enjoyment at relatively low cost while heavy machinery is on site, although with some temporary disruption of traffic along Cameron Road.

 

Scenario 3: Restore the old dam, recreating Pine Lake

 

Fig 3. The Viviry River and its tributaries; the yellow line delimits the watershed – rain and snow melt within the watershed boundaries contribute significantly to flow in the Viviry River. Tributaries flowing north into the Viviry are fed by a combination of surface runoff plus a significant amount of groundwater leaking from the St-Lazare Plateau, a shallow aquifer under the subwash fan deposited during the retreat of the Laurentide Ice Sheet ~9500 years ago. Groundwater in the St-Lazare Plateau mostly originates as rain and snow melt outside the Viviry River watershed. A similar combination of runoff and groundwater sources prevails in south-flowing tributaries originating on the Hudson Highlands, which are another subwash fan laid down by the melting ice sheet. Well-water drawn from these shallow aquifers will reduce flows into the Viviry River as future development increases water use. The solid red stars indicate positions of existing check dams that provide some flood control along the Black Creek tributary; open red stars indicate sites of old beaver dams that could be rebuilt into check dams along the main river channel.

 

RESTORE THE OLD DAM, RECREATING PINE LAKE: The EXP consulting report estimated the cost of repairing the 1990 dam that was damaged in May 2014 to be $462,707 but without provision for dredging the lake basin to create adequate flood control capacity and an ecologically viable lake ecosystem. Repairs to the 1990 dam combined with dredging of sediments and construction of check dams upstream might yield a healthy lake ecosystem and viable flood control, although given increasing flood risks this is not certain in the long run.

Considerations:

  1. The normal level of Pine Lake is set by the design of the dam; the original dam built in 1946 set the normal lake level at the 100 foot contour. This led to the lake water encroaching a meter or two onto some of the neighboring properties. The design of any new dam needs to consider the degree to which properties neighboring Pine Lake will or will not be under water at normal lake level and also during a flood.
  2. The concrete in the old dam is good (GHD report – September 2015), so lifting the old dam back into place, resealing the dam to the sidewalls, and repairing the damaged flood gate mechanisms should be possible.
  1. Repositioning and repairing the damaged dam could be combined with the insertion of ‘sheet piles’ just in front of the dam to reduce the chances of water undercutting the dam again in future; sheet piles are heavy-duty steel sheeting that can be driven into the ground to form a barrier to stabilize the substrate under the dam itself.
  2. A potential complication is that if simply restored this 1990 dam may not provide sufficient flood control in future, at least not without dredging of the lake basin. The AMEC report (September 2014) provides hydrological data not available in the May 2014 EXP report, but our calculations show that AMEC underestimated flood risk by not allowing sufficiently for the effects of future land development and climate change effects on storm intensity.
  3. In our opinion there is no point restoring the dam without dredging the lake basin – the present shallow, poorly contoured basin is prone to algal blooms and will provide inadequate flood retention capacity.
  4. Flood risks are likely to increase in future due to both ongoing climate change and land development. Climate change will bring more of the high-intensity storm events that pose the greatest flood risk, and these will be exacerbated by reduced infiltration on built land surfaces as land development in the watershed continues.
  5. Even if the lake basin is dredged, it is unclear whether restoring the dam built in 1990 without any modification will provide adequate control of flood risk in coming decades.
  6. Only 43% of the Viviry River watershed is in Hudson. Hudson does not have control over land development in the 57% of the Viviry River watershed that is located in Vaudreuil-Dorion and St-Lazare, much of which is not presently developed. Higher runoff rates are likely in future as land development proceeds in adjacent towns as well as in Hudson.
  7. Building of check dams could help reduce sediment loading into the dredged lake basin and improve flood control, in the immediate future or over time. Two upstream sites are suitable for construction of check dams, both previously dammed by beavers (cf. Fig 3). Construction of check dams would require ministry approval, although beavers need no approval so we might just encourage them to do the job at no cost to the town.
  8. Iflakebedsedimentsarecontaminatedandmustberemovedfromthesiteratherthanredistributedatthesite, then costs escalate significantly. The ministry will require analysis of the sediments and prescribe their disposal options. If the sediments are not contaminated and can simply be redistributed on site, then the operation will be less expensive.
  9. Shouldthisscenariobeadopted,thetownwouldhavebothresponsibilityandliabilityformaintenanceand management of the dam, including 24/7 proactive management of water flow during flood events.

Tasks:

  1. This scenario requires a more complete professional review that better defines the relationships between the dam as restored to its 1990 design, the dredging and contouring of the lake basin, and the consequent risk of flooding as climate change and land development proceed in coming decades. The three existing consulting reports do not comprise a complete and correct documentation of flood mitigation.
  2. Repairing and restoring the old dam would involve satisfying ministry regulations for the design, construction and subsequent management of the dam site. The policies, procedures and timeline should be investigated in detail.
  3. If the lake bed sediments are to be disturbed, the ministry probably will require a sediment analysis and a work plan before any work will be approved. Inquiries should be made to the ministry regarding the requirements.
  4. If sediments are contaminated, the ministry could force their removal and proper disposal – consequent costs should be estimated.
  5. Would current Quebec and federal regulations allow routine, unrestricted cleaning of sediment in the culverts under Cameron Road? If sediment removal is allowed by government, then the frequency and costs of this routine work should be estimated.
  6. Are there any government or public-private programs available for cost-sharing associated with this scenario?
  7. If this scenario were to be implemented, what would be the total estimated cost of the immediate work, including interest paid on any loan required to complete the work? The operating costs over time?
  8. How would costs be shared between subsidies, taxes levied on the town as a whole, and taxes levied on residents whose properties abut the lake?

Summary:

This scenario has a certain “just fix the dam and get back the lake ASAP” appeal, but things are not quite so simple. First, the EXP estimated cost advantage of restoring the old dam compared to building a new dam appears negligible, so building a new dam (i.e. scenarios 4, 5 & 6) designed for the 21st century rather than restoring a 1990 dam could be preferable. Second, both of these EXP estimates have hidden and uncertain costs for dredging and sediment removal, which would differ depending on the dam design. Third, neither estimate addresses the risk of flooding and the degree to which the completed project would mitigate flood risk in coming decades.

 

Scenario 4: Build a new concrete dam, recreating Pine Lake:

BUILDING A NEW CONCRETE DAM: The EXP report in May 2014 estimated the cost of removing the damaged dam and replacing it with a comparable, concrete dam to be $481,504, but without consideration of dredging and recontouring the lake basin to create adequate flood control and a more viable lake ecosystem. It also appears that the EXP estimate simply replicated the design of the 1990 dam, which does not take advantage of the opportunity to match design of the dam and the impoundment (i.e. the lake basin) for improved flood mitigation in coming decades.

Considerations:

  1. The normal level of Pine Lake is set by the design of the dam; the original dam built in 1946 set the normal lake level at the 100 foot contour. This led to the lake water encroaching a meter or two onto some of the neighboring properties. The design of any new dam needs to consider the degree to which properties neighboring Pine Lake will or will not be under water at normal lake level and also during a flood.
  2. The issues of dredging and control of flood risk apply whether the dam is restored or rebuilt, but a new dam could allow better coordination among the extent of dredging, the construction of check dams, and more recent estimates of future flood risks under climate change.
  3. There is no point restoring the dam without dredging the lake basin – a shallow, poorly contoured basin is prone to algal blooms and will provide inadequate flood retention capacity.
  4. Flood risks are likely to increase in future due to ongoing climate change and land development. Climate change will bring more of the high-intensity storm events that pose the greatest flood risk, and these will be exacerbated by reduced infiltration on built land surfaces as land development in the watershed continues.
  5. Only 43% of the Viviry River watershed is in Hudson; we do not control land development of the 57% of the Viviry River watershed that is located in Vaudreuil-Dorion and St-Lazare, much of which is not presently developed. Hence, higher runoff rates and greater flood risks are likely in future as land development proceeds.
  6. Building of check dams could help reduce sediment loading into the dredged lake basin and improve flood control, in the immediate future or over time. Two upstream sites are suitable for construction of check dams, both previously dammed by beavers (cf. Fig 3). Construction of check dams would require ministry approval, although beavers need no approval so we might just wait for them to do the job at no cost to the town.
  7. If lake bed sediments are contaminated and must be removed from the site rather than redistributed at the site, then costs escalate significantly. The ministry will require analysis of the sediments and prescribe their disposal options. If the sediments are not contaminated and can simply be redistributed on site, then the operation will be less expensive.

River flow

Fig 4. Cross-section of the dam and culvert under Cameron Road (cf. AMEC consulting report). The lake and dam are to the left, with water flowing through the culvert beneath Cameron Road (culvert below the shaded roadbed). a town water main lies somewhere below or to the side of the road, but is not shown; work in this area must ensure the water main is not subject to freezing in winter.

 

Should this scenario be adopted, the town would have both responsibility and liability for maintenance and management of the dam, including 24/7 proactive management of water flow during flood events.

Tasks:

  1. Building a new concrete dam would involve satisfying ministry regulations for the design, construction and subsequent management of the dam. The policies and procedures should be investigated in detail.
  2. If the lake bed sediments are to be disturbed, it will be necessary to provide the ministry a sediment analysis before any work will be approved. Inquiries should be made to the ministry regarding the requirements.
  3. If sediments are contaminated, the ministry could force their removal and proper disposal – consequent costs should be estimated.
  4. Would current Quebec and federal regulations allow routine, unrestricted cleaning of sediment in the culverts under Cameron Road? If sediment removal is allowed by government, then the frequency and costs of this routine work should be estimated.
  5. Are there any government or public-private programs available for cost-sharing associated with this scenario?
  6. If this scenario were to be implemented, what would be the total estimated cost of the immediate work, including interest paid on any loan required to complete the work? The operating costs over time?
  7. How would the cost be shared between subsidies, taxes levied on the town as a whole, and taxes levied on residents whose properties abut the lake?

Summary:

Given the information available, we are unclear on the relative advantages of repairing the old dam vs building a new dam, but there is more uncertainty associated with the cost and efficacy of the repair. On balance, replacing the damaged dam built in 1990 with a new concrete dam is probably the better of the two options. There would be a cost in demolition of the old dam, but also a significant benefit in more effective design and management of the entire system to function under a heightened risk of floods in future due to both land development and climate change.

 

Scenario 5: Build an earthen dam, restoring a smaller Pine Lake:

BUILD AN EARTHEN DAM, RESTORING A SMALLER BUT DEEPER PINE LAKE: The EXP report in May 2014 estimated the cost of removing the 1990 dam and replacing it with an earthen dam (i.e. in French a digue as opposed to a barrage) to be $440,113, but without consideration of dredging and recontouring the lake basin to create adequate flood control capacity and an ecologically viable lake ecosystem.

EXP did not specifically show the placement or design of their earthen dam, which could take many forms. One possible design essentially replicates the original dam built in 1946 (c.f. photos #1 and #2 in Appendix 1): an earthen dam parallel to Cameron Road. The 1946 dam had a concrete spillway at the site of the 1990 dam, with the lake water level controlled simply by insertion of barriers into slots in the spillway walls. This design requires the sill of the spillway to be below the present level of Cameron Road at the Black Creek culvert, which we believe unduly restricts the possibility of optimizing the design of an earthen dam relative to present and future flood risks. We subsequently present scenario 6 as a variant on this alternative that secures greater flood control by diverting the flow of Black Creek.

In the present scenario we move the earthen dam upstream (cf. Fig 5), dredge a deeper but smaller lake basin, and use the spoils to construct the earthen dam as well as an accessible southern shoreline and parking spaces along Cameron Road. By adding a bridge over the spillway, the top of the earthen dam could serve as a walkway connecting to a public trail on existing town land at the end of Cedar Avenue. In this design the area below the earthen dam would be either a meadow or public park with Black Creek running through it as an open stream, perhaps with a small pond or marsh at some point. The Viviry River would provide a natural barrier between the park and adjacent private properties; the spillway could be built as a cascade, improving stream water quality and adding a water feature to the park. Since Black Creek would enter the Viviry downstream of the earthen dam, the flow from Black Creek during flood stage would not impose added flood risk for the earthen dam. The deeper lake would be less prone to algal blooms and provide better fish habitat.

 

Fig 5: To have adequate stability earthen dams have to be wider than a concrete dam, hence some part of the old lake basin will be taken up by the earthen dam itself and the lake necessarily will be somewhat smaller. There is flexibility in placement of the dam; this working scenario places the dam in line with Cedar Avenue so that a trail on town land could provide lake access. The trail would cross the spillway on a footbridge and follow the dam to the southern shoreline. With this placement the height of the earthen dam would be such that the lake would be visible from Cameron Road with the Viviry River and Black Creek flowing through the park in the foreground. The east-facing side of the earthen dam seen from Cameron Road would look like a grassy hillside.

Considerations:

  1. The normal level of Pine Lake is set by the design of the dam; by agreement of the landowners the original dam built in 1946 set the normal lake level at the 100 foot contour. This led to the lake water encroaching a meter or two onto some of the neighboring properties. The design of any new dam needs to consider the degree to which properties neighboring Pine Lake will or will not be under water at normal lake level and also during a flood.
  2. Any design for an earthen dam requires more professional assessment than has been done by EXP. We have only outlined a possibility for consideration and discussion, not a complete analysis of the efficacy and costs.
  3. By their nature earthen dams occupy more ground than concrete dams; it is the mass of the earth that holds back the water. An earthen dam must be very well sealed and the face protected against degradation – any leak in the dam or flow over the top of the dam can quickly lead to failure, which will cause serious risk to life and property downstream as the lake empties through the breach.
  4. Placing the dam upstream from the point where Black Creek enters the Vivery River reduces the risk of failure of the earthen dam in an extreme flood events.
  5. Building check dams upstream also could help reduce sediment loading into the dredged lake basin and improve flood control, in the immediate future or over time. Two upstream sites are suitable for construction of check dams, both previously dammed by beavers (cf. Fig 3). Construction of check dams would require ministry approval, although beavers need no approval so we might just wait for them to do the job at no cost to the town.
  6. Flood risks are likely to increase in future due to ongoing climate change and land development. Climate change will bring more of the high-intensity storm events that pose the greatest flood risk, and these will be exacerbated by reduced infiltration on built land surfaces as land development in the watershed continues.
  7. Hudson does not have control over land development of the 57% of the Viviry River watershed that is located in Vaudreuil-Dorion and St-Lazare, much of which is not presently developed. Higher runoff rates are likely in future.
  8. If lake bed sediments are contaminated and must be removed from the site rather than redistributed at the site, then costs escalate significantly. The ministry will require analysis of the sediments and prescribe their disposal options. If the sediments are not contaminated and can simply be redistributed on site, then the operation will be less expensive.
  9. The flat top of the earthen dam could provide lakeside access from a footpath at the end of Cedar Avenue, but even with a railing there might be some associated risk of children slipping into the lake
  10. Therestoredlakewouldbesmaller,butdeeper.TheareabelowthedamwouldbeameadowwithBlackCreek running through it. This area would not be under water except during floods when Black Creek might overflow its banks, so it could potentially be landscaped and maintained as a roadside park.
  11. Shouldthisscenariobeadopted,thetownwouldhavebothresponsibilityandliabilityformaintenanceand management of the dam, including 24/7 proactive management of water flow during flood events.

Tasks:

  1. The scenario requires professional assessment if it is to be seriously considered.
  2. If the lake bed sediments are to be disturbed, it may be necessary to provide the ministry a sediment analysis before any work will be approved. Inquiries should be made to the ministry regarding the requirements.
  3. If sediments are contaminated, the ministry could force their removal and proper disposal – consequent costs should be estimated.
  4. Would current Quebec and federal regulations allow routine, unrestricted cleaning of sediment in the culverts under Cameron Road? If sediment removal is allowed by government, then the frequency and costs of this routine work should be estimated.
  1. What liability, if any, does the town bear for any loss of property value associated with a failure to restore Pine Lake to its original dimensions?
  2. Are there any government or public-private programs available for cost-sharing associated with this scenario?
  3. If this scenario were to be implemented, what would be the total estimated cost of the immediate work, including interest paid on any loan required to complete the work? The operating costs over time?
  4. How would the cost be shared between subsidies, taxes levied on the town as a whole, and taxes levied on residents whose properties abut the lake?
  5. If a riverside park along Black Creek were to be developed, what would be the cost of its design, construction and maintenance?

Summary:

There are some merits in an earthen dam, although the costs and benefits have a lot of uncertainty. Earthen dams have demanding operation requirements, and high liability risk if the dam is not well-maintained. In the scenario presented there may be some gain in flood control but the areal surface of the lake will be diminished, although its aesthetic and ecological value may be improved by its greater depth. Development of a park along Black Creek and the southern lakeshore would provide some public amenity. In any case, it is clear this scenario or any related variant would require significant preliminary investment of time and money to properly plan.

 

Scenario 6: Divert Black Creek to enter the Viviry River below the present dam site

DIVERT BLACK CREEK in combination with an earthen dam on Pine Lake. EXP did not consider the possible diversion of Black Creek, which presently accounts for 30% of the water flowing into the Viviry River; this amount will increase with future land development in Black Creek watershed, only 27% of which is under the control of Hudson. Developments in the Vaudreuil- Dorion and St-Lazare portions of the watershed will increase future runoff into Black Creek, increasing rates of sedimentation into Pine Lake and complicating management of flood waters. Hence it is worth considering diverting Black Creek ( Figure 8a) so that its sediment load enters the Viviry below the dam where it can be carried downstream to the river mouth; this also allows scaling down the size of the dam required for flood control at the Pine Lake dam. This scenario raises up the low point on Cameron Road, brings Black Creek under the raised road and over to the Viviry River in a covered culvert that runs beneath a raised shoreline like the present berm parallel to Cameron Road. The northern end of the earthen dam could either be either a simple concrete spillway or a concrete dam with flood gates. Additional flood control would be provided by an overflow gate in the culvert wall that could be opened during a flood event to reduce flow over the sill of the dam; this overflow gate would allow the lower reach of Black Creek up to and below Meadowbrook School to function as a supplemental retention basin during peak flood, hence reducing downstream flood risks on the Vivery River (cf Figure 8b). The flooded land along Black Creek mostly is publicly owned and much of it is already marshland. The town might consider purchase of four fragments of property in private ownership on the south shore of the small pond on Black Creek just upstream of Cameron Road (cf. Figure 7). This would provide a direct connection between the parking and public amenities at Pine Lake and the Taylor Bradbury trail, creating a pleasant hike along Black Creek all the way to Como Golf Course and the town trails in Davidson Park.

Fig 6: Diversion of Black Creek to enter the Viviry River downstream from the dam showing the route of the diversion and a cross-section of the covered culverts that would carry the flow underground between the lake shore and Cameron Road. Drawing by Ken Walker.

  1. The normal level of Pine Lake is set by the design of the dam; the original dam built in 1946 set the normal lake level at the 100 foot contour. This led to the lake water encroaching a meter or two onto some of the neighboring properties. The design of any new dam needs to consider the degree to which properties neighboring Pine Lake will or will not be under water at normal lake level and also during a flood.
  2. The hydraulics involved in managing peak flows during flood stage could be challenging. The combination of water flowing over the sill of the dam and through the Black Creek culvert when the overflow gate was opened might threaten the integrity of existing culverts and bridges downstream at Main Road, the CP tracks and Royalview Avenue. But if the elevational relationships are managed correctly, water could enter the lower reach of the Black Creek basin (i.e the Driscoll-Naylor Bird Sanctuary and the marsh upstream of the sanctuary), relieving flood risk in Pine Lake without undue risk downstream on the Viviry River.
  3. Flood risks are likely to increase in future due to ongoing climate change and land development
  4. It may be that diversion of Black Creek flow combined with flow over the dam during a flood event will exceed the capacity of the Cameron Road culvert. Flood flow from Black Creek that previously would have entered Pine Lake, would now move unimpeded into the Viviry River channel. Hence, it may be necessary to increase the capacity of the Cameron Road culvert or replace it with a bridge.
  5. A bridge would have greater capacity to move water downstream, but in turn that may threaten existing culverts and bridges at Main Road and the Canadian Pacific railroad tracks, and perhaps the bridge at Royalview Avenue. There is also a risk of freezing a water main supplying the village; the pipe is buried along Cameron Road and apparently could be exposed as it runs under the bridges. Professional consultation is required.
  6. The present sediment load in Black Creek is unknown, although it is probably low because of the settling basin in the Taylor Bradbury bird sanctuary upstream. If the culvert diverting Black Creek were to fill with sediment, could the flood gate in the earthen dam simply be opened occasionally to flush away the sediments in the covered culvert as well as those further downstream in the Vivery River?
  7. Should this scenario be adopted, the town would have both responsibility and liability for maintenance and management of the dam, including 24/7 proactive management of water flow during flood events.

Fig 7. Four small properties on the south shore of Black Creek Pond of little or no value to their owners could be bought to connect Pine Lake to existing town trails along Black Creek that in turn connect to Davidson Park and Como Golf Course.

Figure 8a. Pine Lake and the pond in Black Creek at Cameron Road with normal water levels; the inset shows detail near the dam. See Fig 8B for the situation during a flood. The legend applies to both images, which were created by Anna Luz in Martin Lechowicz’s research group.

Figure 8b. The lower reach of Black Creek as an auxiliary retention basin. During major floods the town could open the overflow gate in the side of the Black Creek culvert to let water drain from the lake to reduce the risk of the dam failing. Lake water would then flow through the Black Creek culvert into the Viviry below the dam and also spill upstream in Black Creek to flood the marshy areas associated with the Driscoll-Naylor Bird Sanctuary. Periodic flooding would be advantageous to the marsh vegetation and provide temporary flood retention capacity without risk to residential properties.

Tasks:

  1. This scenario requires careful professional assessment with a focus on cost-benefit analysis amortized over 30 years that allows for both the effects of heightened flood risk under climate change and increased runoff associated with future land developments throughout the Viviry River watershed.
  2. Ministry approval would be required for all aspects of this work – design of the dam and diversion, associated work on Cameron Road, dredging and relocation of sediment etc. The relevant regulatory constraints and required documentation require careful investigation in advance.
  3. Would the owners of fragmented properties on the south shore of Black Creek just above Cameron be willing to sell their property to the town for a reasonable price? The fragments are small and separated from the larger part of their lots, so have little value to them but potentially high value to the town in terms of flood regulation and trail access.
  4. What liability, if any, does the town bear for any loss of property value associated with a failure to restore Pine Lake?
  5. Are there any government or public-private programs available for cost-sharing associated with this scenario?
  1. If this scenario were to be implemented, what would be the total estimated cost of the immediate work, including interest paid on any loan required to complete the work? The operating costs over time?
  2. How would the cost be shared between subsidies, taxes levied on the town as a whole, and taxes levied on residents whose properties abut the lake?

Summary: This scenario recreates Pine Lake much as it was prior to 2014, but with an improved shore along Cameron Road, allied improvements to Cameron Road itself, enhanced flood control, and reduced rate of sedimentation in the lake. If the four fragments of private property on the southern shore of Black Creek Pond were acquired by the town then the land along the shore of Black Creek also would allow direct connection of the parking and lakeside amenities at Pine Lake to the trail that follows Black Creek all the way to the Como Golf Course and Davidson Park. Although this scenario requires professional review and cost analysis, it would return Pine Lake to its former area but with better flood control and connection to town hiking trails. The cost-benefit ratio could be favorable when amortized over 30 years when flood risks will steadily increase with climate change and land development in the Viviry River watershed.

 

Using the criteria that organized our discussions, the Pine Lake working group arrived at a consensus ranking of the six scenarios we considered. Our mandate asked us to “…to provide Council with a recommendation as to what type of dam(s) could be constructed taking into account various factors that have bearing on the choice of a type of structure” and we have done so, but we wish to emphasize three points:

  1. This is NOT a final ranking and recommendation, only our sense of where things stand given the incomplete information available at this time.
  2. Some additional information and professional advice is required before a well-informed and definitive choice can be made among these six scenarios and any others that may become available.
  3. The ultimate responsibility for a decision on the future of Pine Lake rests with the Mayor and Council – we respectfully submit this report to assist their deliberations on the best way forward.
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Why don’t they just listen?

 

Bench dudes WIDE
Best listener at Hudson Town Hall. Never interrupts, has amazing empathy and a big heart. 
This weekend, Quebec’s chief electoral officer Pierre Reid and his team launched a province-wide campaign to encourage more people to vote in the Nov. 5 municipal elections.

The Quebec turnout averaged 47% in 2013 (Hudson’s turnout was dead on the average). Reid thinks the best way to improve participation is to appeal to the 67% of young voters who can’t be bothered.

The way I see it, voter apathy isn’t the problem, it’s a symptom of the public’s disgust with elected officials who don’t or can’t deliver what they promise.

How many times have we seen political candidates make promises that have no reasonable chance of being kept?

Then, rather than admitting their responsibility for their failure to deliver, they climb into their bubble and accuse their critics of fomenting negativism.

This bogus us-versus-them myth becomes the justification for ramming through legislation or bylaws without consultation or information.

The failure to manage voter expectations is the biggest single issue plaguing western democracies. It’s behind Trump’s election, Brexit, Catalonia’s referendum and Scotland’s secession bid. The Liberals’ failure to manage expectations is behind Justin Trudeau’s fall from grace.

Going door to door in Hudson’s municipal election campaign is turning out to be a real eye-opener on the outgoing administration’s failure to manage expectations. It also puts the lie to voter apathy. District 5 has 835 registered voters and the vast majority of those I’ve met are eager to talk about what they like and don’t like about their town.

Our conversations usually begin with well-worn issues such as substandard snow clearing and crumbling infrastructure. They quickly morph into specifics. Young families wonder why there isn’t more for them, such as a water park or a public tennis court. The biggest concern among the elderly is is losing autonomy in a car-oriented community where practical, sustainable quality housing is in short supply.

Active seniors who chose Hudson for the outdoors lifestyle are the angriest. We’re overtaxed and ignored when we complain, they tell me. Cycling on Hudson roads is downright dangerous. Walking trails aren’t contiguous or well maintained. Many say Hudson is under-serviced when compared to its neighbours and to West Island municipalities.

Development doesn’t seem to be a hot-button issue. Voters of all ages tell me they don’t oppose well-planned development but given the choice, they like Hudson the way it is. Bigger isn’t better. Don’t over-extend. Build on what exists and look for ways to improve what we have without raising taxes.

Many blame the outgoing council for the lack of civility in public meetings and the lack of clarity on budget and development issues. The single most disturbing comment I’ve heard: “We would have had second thoughts about moving to Hudson if we’d known the administration was in such disarray.”

I ask people whether they’re planning to vote, either in the Oct. 29 advance poll or on election day Sunday Nov. 5. Their stock answer: yes.

Then I’ll ask them why they think more than half of Hudson’s eligible voters don’t vote.

The answer I hear most: it’s because people feel nobody’s listening to them anyway so it doesn’t matter how or whether they vote.

I listen, make notes and refrain from making promises. I figure it’s a start.

Nothing else matters

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Top, the five phases of the Ravin Boisé residential development. Bottom: a map shows how the project is situated, with a proposed park along the Viviry (immediately to the right of the red project boundary at centre).

Back in 2013, I first wrote about Ravin Boisé, a major residential project being proposed for a forested area in Vaudreuil-Dorion bounded by Upper Alstonvale to the west, Highway 40 to the south and existing developments along Harwood to the north and the east.

I could mourn the loss of another beautiful south-facing woodlot filled with deer, wild turkeys and mature hardwoods, but that’s life in a society that subsidizes fossil fuels and encourages urban sprawl. No, my beef with Ravin Boisé and its 200+ doors is how the developer is proposing to deal with the massive quantities of sewage and runoff directly uphill from the wetland that feeds Viviry Creek and the aquifer that supplies Hudson its drinking water.

At the time, V-D mayor Guy Pilon said Ravin Boisé wouldn’t be allowed to proceed without its own sewage treatment and runoff retention systems.

Earlier this year, work got underway on the project, beginning with an access road from Upper Alstonvale. Last week I biked up to Ravin Boisé to check on progress and ran into someone who said I was welcome to ride down the new road.

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Potential for pollution: the main road into the project will channel torrent of contaminated runoff into the Viviry Creek watershed, the replenishment basin for the source of Hudson’s drinking water supply.

Work is well underway on what the developer’s website characterizes as Phase 4. The road into the project is approximately two kilometres long and terminates in a clearing at the bottom of the hill next to Highway 40. The road contractor is installing storm sewers and water lines but there’s no sign of a sewer system and no mention of any sewage treatment facility on the Ravin Boisé website.

I’m waiting for callbacks from Vaudreuil-Dorion’s urban planning department and/or developer Habitations Robert.

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The end of the development road. The Viviry wetland is the clearing through the trees.

The potential for a runoff retention problem is far greater, now that the hillside is being stripped of the trees and undergrowth that used to slow the flow long enough for runoff to percolate into the soil.

The road heads straight downhill, a man-made river directing runoff and meltwater from all those roofs and all those paved driveways directly into the Viviry’s headwaters. Standing there at the bottom of the hill, I could visualize the effects of a torrential downpour, beginning with the Upper Viviry widening into a lake before the volume of water continues down through Hudson.

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Pine Lake, April 2017: any plan for Hudson’s symbolic pond must accommodate its role as a retention basin.

We’ve already seen what happens to Pine Flats after heavy rains. It turns back into a lake and the Viviry threatens to wash away what’s left of the dam next to Cameron, with potentially catastrophic effects on one of Hudson’s main roads in and out of town.

There are ways to retain and redirect runoff. Our neighbours have a steep driveway up to our street. In winter, there’s a real risk of a vehicle sliding down their hill and crashing into the garage door. So they asked Gord Simpson of S&S Landscaping to come up with a solution.

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Runoff mitigation and retention measures being applied to this steep Hudson driveway are designed to keep it ice-free all winter.

You’re looking at it here. S&S reshaped and excavated the driveway to include berms that will act as dams to direct runoff to the downhill side. Then they refilled the driveway with layers of gravel, beginning with maybe a foot of coarse stone. Then came more layers of finer gravel that will provide the bed for a type of paver that allows water to penetrate.

If all goes according to plan, the entire driveway becomes a permeable structure that will  drain runoff as quickly as it turns to water. Theoretically, ice can’t build up and all S&S has to do is clear the snow without risking a fast trip downhill.

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Inevitably, the runoff from Ravin Boisé will find its way into the Viviry Creek watershed, the source

Back to Ravin Boisé: unless the development includes a common sewage treatment system as well as runoff retention measures, the risk of groundwater contamination with fecal coliform rises exponentially.

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Development, no matter how carefully designed and executed, alters runoff and retention patterns. Municipal borders mean nothing to water.

Understand this: upstream development poses a significant and growing contamination risk to Hudson’s water supply. As we learned at last month’s special presentation, the only sustainable solution lies in drawing water from the Lake of Two Mountains.

The only way Hudson’s taxpayers can afford the $12-$15M cost is to reach agreement with Hudson’s equally thirsty neighbours — Rigaud, St. Lazare and Vaudreuil-Dorion, home to this and other water-consuming, runoff and sewage-producing developments. If I was Hudson’s mayor, I’d be pushing this file nonstop at the intermunicipal, regional and provincial levels.

Because as you can see, everything is interrelated — sewage treatment, runoff retention, Pine Lake, a new well, development in Hudson and neighbouring municipalities. There’s an argument to be made against spending $1.4M on a new well if there’s the slightest possibility we can come up with a cheaper long-term solution that will bring water to everyone.

Water is and should be at the heart of this election. Without a sustainable water supply, nothing else matters.

Update: I spoke to Vaudreuil-Dorion mayor Guy Pilon Friday afternoon, Oct. 16. He told me the environment ministry demanded that the developer install a tertiary sewage treatment system with sufficient capacity to handle the volume produced by the development when it’s completed.

Pilon said runoff mitigation and retention measures aren’t necessary because the developer is being required to ensure wide setbacks along existing watercourses.

Enough of the forest canopy is being protected to slow runoff and allow it to percolate into the soil, he added. 

Will the outflow from the sewage treatment plant and runoff from the development increase the Viviry’s volume and flow rate downstream through Hudson?

“No, no, no, absolutely not!”

 

 

Meanwhile, back at Town Hall…

I’ll continue writing this blog for the duration of the election campaign. I won’t burden my readers with lurid campaign details to date except to say I knocked over my ladder while putting up Jim Duff District 5 posters and had to koala-hug my way down a splintery staple-studded hydro pole.

We have to keep our eyes on the goings-on at Hudson town hall for the duration of the election, out of public view from this evening until the next mayor and council are sworn in more than a month from now.

Council will be dissolved after this evening’s special meeting (7 p.m., Community Centre) but town business will continue under the supervision of the acting mayor (pro-mayor Natalie Best) and town manager Jean-Pierre Roy. That includes loan bylaws for paving and a new well, a parking bylaw and approval of the new Coast Guard base.

I’m sure resolutions adopted at last week’s council meeting will reverberate during question period, especially the announcement of a deal with Sandy Beach developer Nicanco whereby the town takes over responsibility for Beach Road/ Royalview. In exchange, the developer adds a lot to the east to the existing servitude and agrees to install all infrastructure and pave the road. The developer will also cover the cost of two sewage pumping stations and extending a line west to the sewage treatment plant.

There is a long and growing list of work being done to comply with the Dec. 31 deadline for completion of projects receiving funding this year, including a new roof and mural for the curling club. Two local artists, Daniel Gautier and Kent Thomson, will be paid $10,000 each (they have both been cut $5,000 cheques to cover their setup costs) for designing and creating a We are Canada mural (citizens are promised some form of input at a later date). Roy, as DG, has been given authority by this council to sign cheques and approve contracts while  residents pick a council that will have to live with the results and approve the final tab.

Hmmm.

Posted this on FB yesterday:

Going through the auditor’s report on Hudson’s fiscal 2016. (It was presented at this council’s last regular Monday-night rubber-stamp event.) A $976,343 operating surplus, $4M in the bank, $400,000 more than budgeted to pay down the $26.7M long-term debt, lower than budgeted expenditures. Flip side: Hudson’s auditor can’t attest to the veracity of the data in their report because the town remains under a MAMOT dark cloud.

It’s hard to nail down, this dark cloud  but there’s no doubt it’s there, a conflation of Louise Villandré’s online gambling frauds and the litigious mess involving the town’s former DG, a human resources consultant and the outgoing mayor.  Here’s the introduction to an adverse opinion of the town’s financial situation (my translation and synopsis:

Our responsibility consists of offering an opinion on the consolidated financial statements on the basis of our audit. We carried out our audit according to generally recognized Canadian audit norms. These norms require that we adhere to [our profession’s] code of ethics and that we plan and conduct the audit so as to reasonably assure ourselves that the consolidated financial statements not contain significant anomalies.

An audit presupposes the carrying out of procedures designed to gather correct data concerning the sums and information contained in the consolidated financial statements. The choice of procedures is up to the auditor, and notably that his evaluation of risks the consolidated financial statements may contain significant anomalies and that these may result in frauds or errors. In the risk evaluation, the auditor takes into consideration [the Town of Hudson’s] internal controls on the preparation and accurate presentation of the consolidated financial statements so as to come up with audit procedures appropriate under the circumstances, and not with the goal of expressing an opinion on the effectiveness of the [town’s] internal controls. An audit also carries with it an appreciation of the appropriateness of the accounting methods used and how the consolidated financial statements are presented.

The audit evidence, Gaudreau, Poirier concluded in its report, is “sufficient and appropriate on which to base our adverse opinion (opinion d’audit défavorable)”

Wikipedia: In an audit report, an adverse opinion is one expressed by the professional accountant in which the auditor formulates a restriction on the basis that the financial statements do not fairly present the entity’s financial position and results in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles or a other applicable financial reporting framework.

Gaudreau Poirier continues: The town’s internal control deficiencies between 2004 and 2013 may have allowed some expenditures on town projects covered by [government] grants not in conformity with the loan bylaws that approved them. The auditors were unable to determine specific incidents.

In their view, the town’s consolidated financial statements do not give an accurate picture of the financial situation of the town and organizations under its control as of Dec. 31/16.

This post has been corrected to reduce the payout to the two We are Canada artists to $10,000 from $15,000. 

A FB message from Culture and Tourism director Laura McCaffrey on plans for public involvement: “Mr Duff – a quick correction regarding the mural info you posted on your latest blog. Each artist will be paid $10,000 for their work, which will have extended over 3 months. Input from residents has been solicited over the last 2 months via emails to our community and cultural organizations and their members, through social media, and through printed media with an article in YLJ and Arts Hudson. In addition to the submissions that we have received from the public, which have all been taken into account in the design of the mural, Hudson residents will have an opportunity to contribute to the actual painting of the mural once the painting process has begun. At the outset when determining timelines for the completion of this project, we concluded that November 11th would be a realistic and appropriate date to unveil the completed project. We continue to be on track to meet this deadline.” 

The alleged conversion of the beach servitude to outright public ownership was based on an unrecorded conversation and remains to be confirmed.

 

Fight like dogs and cats

 

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An unidentified Hudson resident shot this pitbull some years back because the owner was allowing it to run free. Hudson’s apathetic voters need electo-shock therapy with issues they can care about, like Hudson’s leash laws.
One of Hudson’s mayoral candidates waylaid me this week, wondering how to get people fired up about the upcoming election campaign. (Nominations open and the campaign officially begins Sept. 22. Nominations close Oct. 6 and the campaign finishes with the election Sunday, Nov. 5; so far, there’s next to no interest.)

Uppermost in both our minds: 53% of Hudson’s eligible voters didn’t vote in the last election.

I have the answer: trees, dogs and cats.

Before I get around to explaining, it’s too bad Hudson’s pontificaters and bloviators can’t be bothered to inform themselves on what’s been happening at the Quebec National Assembly this year — and how those happenings relate to Hudson.

If they did, Hudson residents could look forward to a more sophisticated, better-informed election campaign where those seeking election will have to do better than the usual yawners about transparency and commitment.

Trouble is, there’s no easy way to make administrative issues interesting  despite the profound effect they’ll have on our community. I’ll begin with Bill 122, ‘an Act mainly to recognize that municipalities are local governments and to increase their autonomy and powers.’

Bill 122 was adopted June 15, but only after the Couillard Liberals agreed to an amendment doing away with obligatory referendums on zoning changes. The amendment gives municipalities the choice of whether to adopt a public consultation policy to replace the ‘subject to approval by referendum’ process. Hudson’s Prévost administration chose the public consultation route without explaining the change to residents.

Back in January, I posted Waiting for Bill 122 (WordPress, Jan. 16/17) following a lengthy interview with Hudson’s director-general Jean-Pierre Roy. He explained in general terms how Bill 122 would allow Hudson to take control of development. But because 122 was not yet law, Roy didn’t explain the political mechanism whereby the town would be able to move past zoning bylaws subject to approval by referendum.

Nor did the current council, presumably because they thought it better to let sleeping dogs lie. It wasn’t until a May 23 public consultation that Hudson residents realized that by adopting three concordance bylaws (688,689,690) the town was giving itself the powers vested in it by Bill 122 to pre-approve a number of development projects, including Sandy Beach, Willowbrook and a townhouse scheme on Como Gardens.

Those three concordance bylaws also enabled transport-oriented development in sewered sectors of town. Two other zoning bylaws (690,691) cleared the way for Wyman Memorial United Church to sell a parcel of land for residential development. (A sixth modification to the town’s master plan, Bylaw 685.2 which I don’t believe was adopted, would have established Greenwood Centre for Living History’s right to non-conforming use.)

When we were done adding the potential numbers, Hudson found itself looking at close to 1,000 new doors in a town without enough water in its reservoirs to fight two fires simultaneously, let alone meet a 30% shortfall during peak demand periods.

The current administration made little effort to explain any of this to residents. Under Bill 122, municipalities are no longer required to post public notices in local newspapers. Instead, they face tougher transparency requirements, including an obligation to post every public document on their municipal website. Not only has this council failed to explain due process; it persists in obfuscation.

Hudson’s development future? Ellerbeck’s 98-door Willowbrook project is on track to become the town’s first development to be approved without recourse to a register or referendum.

And, as they say in the telemarketing ads, that’s not all. If Hudson Valleys developer Daniel Rodrigue had waited for the town to adopt bylaws 688, 689 and 690 before seeking a zoning change for his Mayfair semi-detached project, contractors would be pouring foundations this fall. Instead, the project was rejected in a register because Rodrigue failed to convince residents the project was to their benefit.

It could well prove to be NIMBYism’s last stand in a community notorious for its hostility to new development.

Because Rodrigue’s 24-door townhouse development isn’t toast. Bill 122 allows a municipality to identify requalification zones in its planning policy, where redevelopment such as densification or urban renewal won’t require a rezoning bylaw subject to referendum.

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Because of Bill 122, Ellerbecks’ Willowbrook development will be Hudson’s first to be approved without recourse to a register or referendum. It won’t be the last.
Then there’s draft Bill 132, an Act respecting the conservation of wetlands and bodies of water. It’s called a draft bill because it’s currently before the NatAss Committee on Transportation and the Environment undergoing clause-by-clause consideration. It’s a political hot potato because it delegates decision-making on wetlands and eco-corridors to Quebec’s regional municipalities, or MRCs.

Hudson’s draft conservation plan is being rushed to completion despite persistent questions about wetland swaps approved by the environment ministry. What’s the rush? Sandy Beach? Como Gardens?  The enabling legislation hasn’t been adopted — and won’t be until sometime next year.

Other issues loom, like fallout from the 17.5% salary increase to the Sûreté du Québec’s 5,400 members. The formula under which the Vaudreuil-Soulanges MRC is taxed for SQ policing is part of a Quebec-wide equalization scam. On average, Quebec municipalities pay 53% of the cost, Quebec the rest. But wealthy MRCs (we’re one) are assessed approximately 110%, with individual municipalities refunded half the excess. Quebec’s two municipal federations are fearful those rebates to their members will be slashed, possibly in excess of the 17.5% increase to cover the added cost to have-not MRCs.

Hudson, like most small municipalities where policing represents a sizeable chunk of their overhead, has come to depend on that rebate. But who’s going to get fired up over something they can’t change?

Now to the trees, cats and dogs.

Draft Bill 128, tabled in June, will dictate a province-wide law regarding dogs that bite people. Municipalities will have the power to adopt stricter regulations, but if they don’t the provincial law will prevail regardless of how Hudson’s dog lovers feel about it. Now, this is a hot-button issue in a town where many feel it’s unfair to leash their four-footed furry buddies, let alone muzzle them if they get rowdy with a neighbour’s toddler.

We’ve all seen horrific injuries inflicted by unmuzzled dogs, but like guns and climate change, we’re dealing with denial. Should Hudson ban specific breeds? Prosecute the owners of canine offenders? Aggressively enforce leash and poop laws?

While we’re at it, should people be allowed to trap cats trespassing on their property, eating songbirds and crapping in their garden?

…which brings me to trees. The new owners of a home on Ridge Road cut most of the trees surrounding the house to increase drainage on the perennially wet lot and to let some sun into their new abode. The neighbour, a house-proud couple for whom the illusion of country isolation was important, were outraged. Should the town consult with our neighbours before issuing tree-cutting permits? Now, there’s a fight worth having.

How about closing the town core to traffic on summer weekends? Or metered parking?

If it’s voter turnout we’re after, get people going. Forget the boring stuff, like governance and vision. Find those hot buttons and poke at them until Hudson’s sleeping dogs wake up.

 

Hudson tightens handout controls

Hudson Village Theatre has the town’s go-ahead to add an addition to the west end of their playhouse in Hudson’s former CP train station. Council’s conditions: it must be hooked up to municipal sewers and have two basement exits with old and new basements connected.

HVT executive director Kalina Skulska told me the addition will provide the theatre the space it needs for social events and theatre activities. She made a point of emphasizing the theatre isn’t looking for handouts from the town, adding HVT has gone it alone since its inception with the help of its sponsors and fans.

A coincidence? Council Monday night also approved a town policy for the recognition and support of non-profit organizations, allegedly in response to an embarrassing incident in which a cheque to a local organization was deposited into somebody’s private bank account.

In the preamble, the town links its financial support to an organization’s ‘recognition status’ and degree of accountability. Organizations requesting handouts from the taxpayers must be headquartered in Hudson, have 70% of their directors from Hudson, respond to a collective need, conduct all their activities in Hudson and not look to the town as a primary source of funding.

Institutional, political, religious, professional, philanthropic or any group “supporting or accompanying sick, addicted or incarcerated individuals” shouldn’t bother to apply.

The policy item that raised the biggest squawk was the requirement that any applicant with an annual budget of $20,000 or more, or having received a grant of $5,000 or more from the town is required to provide audited financial statements.

Hudson Music Festival co-organizer Lynda Clouette Mackay pointed out that an audited financial statement can cost as much as the grant is worth.
“There is flexibility, obviously,” said councillor Ron Goldenberg.
But you’ve passed it tonight, several in the audience pointed out.

Pro-mayor Natalie Best said at first there could be modifications to the resolution before it comes into effect, then persisted and signed. “It’s already passed but we’ll take it under advisement.”

Community Centre reno rush

The rush is on to spend as much of that $555,000 loan bylaw before Dec. 31. Council voted to approve a $22,460 contract with architect James Lalonde to prepare tender documents for the renovation of the Community Centre. Also announced was a notice of motion of delegation of powers to DG Jean-Pierre Roy so decisions regarding this and other town projects continue to be made in the period between the end of the current council’s mandate and the swearing in of their successors.

Following the council session Parks, Recreation, Culture and Tourism Director Nicolas Pedneault gave me a tour of the Community Centre with the emphasis on what renovations are needed. Roof leaks, crafty, leaky original low-grade windows and doors and worn flooring are obvious. Less obvious is the lack of a proper commercial stove ventilation hood and other shortcomings in the heavily used kitchen. The structure averages 100 visitors a day and has been designated as the town’s emergency shelter.

When the bylaw was adopted the town vowed not to spend any money unless it was matched dollar for dollar by the federal government’s Canada 150 and other community infrastructure programs. In other words, the taxpayer’s share of the total would be a maximum of $227,500.

Compost pickup coming

Organic waste pickup is coming as early as next year. Council voted for Hudson to join other Vaudreuil-Soulanges municipalities also part of the Montreal Metropolitan Commission in a project to collect compostables in 45-litre bins.

More new hires

Hudson’s next town planning services director was introduced. She’s Marie-Claude Besner and she’s been involved in urban planning since the early ‘80s. She replaces Natalie Lavoie, off to Two Mountains after 15 years in Hudson. Also hired is a new town clerk, two articling law students, a part-time employee for the finance department, facilities attendant and a mat leave replacement for Parks and Recreation.

$15G for snowclearing mayhem 

Transport André Leroux Inc. finally got the cheque for the last instalment of last year’s snow-clearing bill — $45,931.51, minus $15,000 representing the damage the town and Leroux agreed was caused to property by incompetent operators. Residents found the damage settlement to be ridiculously low and demanded whether Leroux will be tearing up Hudson streets again this coming winter. They were told it’s a three-year contract and the town will be working more closely with the contractor to ensure better service.

Water: Hudson looks to the Ottawa

Water filtration RGB.JPG
Hudson’s Woodland water filtration plant and reservoir: Peak demand exceeds well capacity by 30%. Treatment capacity at this facility will be exceeded when Hudson’s population hits 6,530. The town has no choice but to go to the river, according to a status report presented to residents.
Sooner or later, Hudson and its neighbours will be forced to draw their drinking water from the Lake of Two Mountains, residents were told at last night’s presentation of a status report on the town’s chronic water shortage.

Until a regional cost-sharing agreement is reached on the construction and operation of a $12-$15M filtration plant, Hudson has no other choice but to spend $1.3M to sink another well as quickly as possible to meet a 30% peak-demand shortfall.

The bleak assessment as well as immediate and long-term solutions were the work of the Citizens Action Group on Infrastructure, one of several advisory committees created by mayor Ed Prévost.

“We’re not looking for a divine solution,” chairman and District 2 councillor Ron Goldenberg said in his introduction to the briefing prior to the monthly council meeting. “We’re looking for a practical solution.”

Emphasizing the non-partisan urgency of Hudson’s looming water crisis was the presence on the committee of Jacques Bourgeois, the unsuccessful 2013 mayoral candidate. Bourgeois’s consulting group helped design and install Hudson’s aqueduct and sewage treatment systems and he has worked with municipalities in Quebec and Ontario in addressing potable-water issues.

In describing the situation he didn’t hold back. “The alarm bells are going off everywhere.”

Highlights of Bourgeois’s technical briefing:

– Only 10% of the precipitation falling on the region feeds the aquifers from which close to 100,000 Vaudreuil-Soulanges residents get their water. 70% is lost to evaporation. 20% is lost to runoff. Runoff is increasing due to development. Less retention means less water percolating, or making its way into the water table.

— Precipitation is less dependable. Precipitation maximums and minimums are less consistent. Example: the 100% swing in precipitation from 2015 to 2016.

— Hudson’s four main wells (Wellesley A, Bradbury, Hudson Valleys and Alstonvale) have a combined production capacity of 3,547 US gallons a minute. Demand peaks at 4,750, representing a 30% shortfall. The Bradbury, less than 10 years old, is producing at below rated capacity and requires remediation.

— Human water consumption averages a cubic metre a day, or 254 US gallons. The treatment and storage capacity of the Woodland waterworks will be exceeded once Hudson’s population hits 6,530 (current pop. 5,135.) New development already approved in the town’s draft conservation plan would raise the town’s population close to capacity.

The committee’s recommended short-term solution: a new well in the Viviry watershed. The aquifer will support a new well. The infrastructure and expertise are already in place, several potential sites have been identified, the expenditure is already planned in the town’s PTI and provincial approval would be expedient given the urgency.

The added capacity would allow replenishment of the reservoir at night, when demand is lower, thus retaining water levels adequate to meet peak daytime demand and firefighting requirements.

The long-term solution would be a new treatment plant allowing the town to draw water from the Ottawa River as do many other Quebec and Ontario municipalities, Bourgeois continued. The river provides stable quality, a reliable, easy-to-manage source. The main drawback is cost. A facility capable of providing 10-15,000 cubic metres/day would cost $12-$15M to build and $400,000 a year to operate. This explains why the capital and operating costs of waterfront treatment facilities are usually shared by three to seven municipalities.

Rigaud, St. Lazare and Vaudreuil-Dorion all have potable-water supply issues, Bourgeois noted. Rigaud has already expressed interest, he added. His proposed critical path for this and future councils:

– Proceed as soon as possible with the new well;
– Mandate a steering committee to oversee short and long-term solutions;
– Commission a detailed feasibility study on a lakeside treatment plant.

Questions ranged from whether it would be cheaper to cap Hudson’s population, to how much water is lost due to leaks (5%, said technical services director Paul Boudreau, while Austin Rikley-Krindle cited a paper suggesting it’s closer to 18%). Concern was expressed over drawing water from a river into which hundreds of municipalities dump treated and untreated sewage amid growing evidence that micro-contaminants such as excreted prescription drugs pose a potentially serious health risk.

The briefing marked a a turning point, both for this administration and for how the town is addressing a serious issue without delving into the rancorous partisanship hallmarking the last four years. Bourgeois prefaced his technical briefing by noting the group had consulted with former technical services director Trail Grubert, whose post-retirement severance and pension fight with the Prévost administration ended up in court.

The committee’s makeup (Goldenberg, Bourgeois, Bill Nash, Marcus Owen, Betsy Stewart, David Warne, with Boudreau and grant writer/waterworks technician Simon Corriveau) implies this isn’t going to be an issue that fades after the Nov. 5 elections. Nash is a mayoral candidate. Owen is attending MRC meetings.

Prior to the briefing I asked Goldenberg how he got along with Bourgeois. “I don’t get a warm and fuzzy feeling, but Jacques knows the water file like no one else and knows how to work,” he told me. Others told me there was council resistance to Bourgeois and Grubert, echoes of Prévost’s blanket rejection of anyone who had worked for the town prior to his election.

Twenty years ago, I wrote what would become the first of an endless series of articles and columns in the Hudson Gazette explaining why Hudson would be pulling water from the Ottawa some day. I was called a fool and worse by people who had no clue what they were talking about. How do I feel now? Vindicated — and awed by the enormity of the task of making it happen. Thanks to all who enabled this discussion to take a great leap forward last evening.