ECOSPECTIVE: ‘There was an old lady who swallowed a fly…’


Daniel O’Neail
In August 2002, Allen Rock announced an investment in ‘Green’ infrastructure under the Canada-Ontario Infrastructure Program, which led to the repairing of Springbank Dam of its 2000 storm damage.

Does this improve the water quality?

No, as a matter of fact the reservoir behind the dam is for canoeing and boating ONLY, with E coli ratings in the reservoir 55 times higher than levels that would close a public beach, you would not want to swim, bath or get any in your mouth.

As long as you stay in the boat you should be ok.

Does this ‘Green’ Initiative help the aquatic species?

No. The plan to put in a fish ladder was declared unnecessary. Not that many fish would want to swim past the city’s largest sewage pollution plant, that bypasses into the river regularly, (74 times in 2005).

No, this Green Initiative is to provide a handful of Londoners with a pond to row their boats.

The first dam and waterworks were constructed at Springbank Park in 1878 to solve the city’s sanitation problems, and while not built for the rowers it did provide them with a suitable area. And 3 rowing clubs appeared the Bank of Commerce Rowing Club ,Forest City Rowing Club, and the Hanlan Boat Club.

The current dam was built in 1929 not for water or sanitation or power, but for recreational use. And after some repairs in the 1960’s, badly damaged in the flooding of 2000, the city had to choose what to do.

Their options were:

• Alternative 1 – Maintain the status quo (i.e., ‘do nothing’)
• Alternative 2 – Conduct maintenance repairs to the dam and tailrace, replace stop logs, improve hoist facilities, and implement a debris management system
• Alternative 3 – Replace the existing stop logs and gates with overflow gates
• Alternative 4 – Remove the existing stop logs and gates and install an overflow rubber dam downstream of the existing piers
• Alternative 5 – Decommission and remove the dam.

Instead of letting it go after 79 years of enjoyment they chose Alternative 3 and hired MacLean Taylor Construction and Hatch Acres as Consulting Engineers and dedicated what ended up being $4 million City tax dollars to restoring the leisure device. What started as a $4.2 million project ballooned out to $6.7 million.

Now we don’t have an old broken-down dam needing to be razed – now we have a brand new, up-to-date, modern, broken dam that needs to be razed. Thanks to one new gate failing the test, new – but not completely unexpected – additional costs have come up.

We will need to build a road to get the equipment to the gate to get to the broken bolts, to fix the dam…

“There was an old lady who swallowed a fly…” Why is this going to cost the taxpayer?

Anyone who tenders to the City requires a minimum of $2 million of liability insurance, and if you are on a large project you need to have insurance prior to tender.

Is the City not able to hire companies that warranty their work? It doesn’t matter if its faulty parts, or incorrect construction, when you’re hired to fix something and it’s not fixed, why would you expect to get paid more to fix what isn’t fixed?

Instead of investing millions into holding the river in place, why are we not investing into cleaning it up?

Six million dollars would have gone a long way towards efforts to clean the pollution out of the river upstream, or keeping unprocessed sewage out of the river. Imagine a river in London that you could swim in, or drink from, or fall out of your canoe without getting a rash.

Remember the dam is only used 5 months a year, and then look again at the options the City had: Fix it, or decommission it at a fraction of the cost.

This isn’t water under the bridge, it’s our dam tax dollars, City Council needs to learn to work together to spend wisely.


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