Town of Golden councillors Eddie Leigan and Connie Barlow look at a design of the potential sea wall construction in downtown Golden. The full funding for the dike improvement project was announced on Friday morning by Mayor Ron Ozsust. Keri Sculland/Star Photo

Federal Gas Tax Fund provides full funding for dike improvements

The Town of Golden has received the largest single infrastructure based grant in its history to fully fund the Kicking Horse River dike improvement project downtown.

The $5.87 million grant is made possible from the Federal Gas Tax Fund and is administered by the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, and will allow Golden to move forward with long-anticipated upgrades to the most vulnerable sections of the Kicking Horse River dike, which will help reduce the effects of flooding on residents and businesses along the river. The money will also go to raising up portions along the river, and building a pedestrian walkway between the Highway 95 bridge and the pedestrian bridge on the north side of the river.

“It is a good day in Golden,” said Mayor Ron Ozsust at the press conference on March 9.

The walking path connecting the bridges will be a 330 metre long sea wall style structure and will dramatically increase flood protection for the community, Oszust explained.

There are only certain windows where construction on the river can occur, as outlined by the Ministry of Environment, so 2018 will count as the planning year, and construction will begin in 2019. The mayor hopes construction will be completed by 2020.

“We have a number of windows when we can and cannot work,” he said. “We will be looking to renew prior commitments to BC Hydro and Telus in helping to bury and relocate the utilities.”

Some challenges around the construction of a sea wall may arise with downtown businesses because it would mean the possibility of changing available parking and dealing with deliveries that presently arrive at the back doors of many businesses.

“There will be ongoing engagement with those property owners adjacent to the dike, particularly in the seawall area to work through the various issues from planning to engineering about how the structure will integrate with their properties,” Oszust said, adding that many European countries have vehicles and pedestrians sharing the same pathways. “They have vibrant downtown cores, they have people mingling about, lots of pedestrian traffic, and yet they are still able to do the commerce.”

The construction of the seawall and relocation of overhead utilities should transform the riverfront in preparation for beautification initiatives, the Town of Golden said in a press release.

The Town of Golden has been trying to fund these upgrades for more than eight years, and had previously looked into borrowing the funds. Previous discussions also included installing a kayak park on the river.

“Ottawa and Victoria dictate when we can and cannot be in this river, and it’s wonderful to see them coming with 100% of the funding finally,” said former mayor Jim Doyle.

Dike upgrades have always been a top priority in public safety for Golden, Ozsust said.

“This project has always represented our number one public safety project for Golden, and we’re immensely pleased to be able to address this long standing priority,” he added. “It will provide flood protection to the Town’s residents, and protect infrastructure in key areas of the community.”

The grant will mean good changes to the community, said Ozsust, and he hopes that the construction can integrate with construction on the Highway 95 bridges, which the province is planning to replace.

Although Ozsust said he hasn’t heard any updated plans for the bridge construction in about six months, he is still hopeful the Town of Golden and the Ministry of Transportation can integrate their plans to transform the entire area.

“From a council perspective, we feel quite strongly that the highway needs to straighten out and align better, so we’re hopeful that becomes a reality and we can get that project moving forward at the same time,” he said.

Ozsust hopes the Town will get the contract soon to begin work on the dike improvements, but for now there is a lot of planning to go into the project, including relocating the utilities, conversations with residents and business owners, and how to complete construction with the least impact on businesses, operations, and day to day traffic flow in the community.

“According to the experts, floods are the mostly costly property damage events in Canada,” he added. “We all need to do what we can to be ready.”

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