The Town of Golden opened up the lines of communication this week regarding the proposed Bridge to Bridge project. Mayor Christina Benty, and Chief Administrative Officer David Allen gave a presentation, and took questions during a Kicking Horse Country Chamber of Commerce sponsored Lets do Lunch at the Island Restaurant.
“The intention for today is for information sharing, and dialogue,” said Benty to the crowded room. “As a Council, we want to be as transparent as possible.”
The Bridge to Bridge project is a dike improvement and riverfront enhancement project that is expected to cost more than $4 million. Its primary aim will be safety, to protect against flooding and ice-jamming. But a beautification plan has been incorporated as well.
As of now, there is a 330-metre vulnerable section of the dike on the north bank of the Kicking Horse River, which has an existing earth berm of less than the required one metre freeboard above the 1:200 return flood levels. The two-phase Bridge to Bridge project will introduce a concrete floodwall that will increase flood protection by 0.5 m to 1.5 m above the elevation of the existing dike.
A 5-m lane width, on the access road parallel to the river, will be maintained, and existing overhead lines will be moved underground, as the existing BC Hydro poles are in conflict with the proposed floodwall alignment.
In the second phase, a combination of low concrete wall, rock terracing and earth berm will be constructed to 0.15 m above the existing dike elevation for the 120 m in length west of the first phase to the Pedestrian Bridge adjacent to the town’s Spirit Square.
“This is a big project, one of the biggest the town has ever seen. And $2.3 million is a lot for a small community to pay,” said Allen. Having received provincial and federal grants totaling $2.24 million, the Town is to borrow up to a maximum of $2.3 million for the project.
The Town is asking for as much public input as possible, but due to time constraints, they will not be holding a referendum. Grant restrictions dictate that the work must be completed by the end of 2013, and since much of the work must be done when the water is low at the end of summer, that doesn’t leave much time.
Several concerns were raised at the lunch, both from the attendees and from Allen who relayed what feedback he had received up to this point.
“Why should we borrow? It’s a lot of money,” said Allen. The Town is planning to use short-term borrowing while the work is being done, and switch to long-term borrowing after. The worst case scenario, if no other funding is found for the project, then this could mean a three per cent increase in municipal taxes.
“But as we’re incurring more debt, we’re also paying off old debt. So this is the absolute worst case scenario,” said Allen.
The benefits from this project will serve the town for generations to come, said Benty and Allen. The downtown core will be protected better from flooding and ice-jamming, and the beautification part of the project will increase pedestrian traffic, and draw more people in. Businesses on 9th Avenue North parallel to the river will have the opportunity to turn their shops around to face the river and the mountains. As of now, Bacchus Books and the Rockwater are the only two that have expressed their intention to do so.
“We’re not here to sell this project,” said Allen. “It is up to the electorate.” And if 10 per cent of that electorate is against borrowing funds to support this project, then that will be the end of it.