After 85 years, pretty much anything would begin to show cracks.
That is what’s happened with the historic river wall in downtown Trail, though the first leg of restoration doesn’t sit pretty with the province.
Following high water levels in 2012, the city was concerned about the wall’s stability and questioned how much longer the barrier could withstand seasonal increases of hydraulic pressure without a breach.
Restoration efforts first began along the shoreline because years of illegal dumping and washed up debris impeded access to the site as well as aging trees impacting an existing sewer system and the wall by embedding roots in both structures.
Whenever work is planned near water, municipalities must submit a water act application to the Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource to make changes in and about a stream.
While the city did receive a permit to begin river wall restoration, the ministry identified that vegetation along the shoreline was to be disturbed as little as possible to lessen impact to native fish and wildlife.
“Soon after the selective removal of vegetation began, the city determined that the existing large trees were primarily relying on the sanitary line and the retaining wall for anchoring its root system,” explained Larry Abenante from Trail public works. “Aggressive high water constantly uproots trees along the river shoreline,” he said. “These trees were removed due to the potential damage to the infrastructure if the trees were to remain.”
Since the shoreline clean up and wall rehabilitation was undertaken in 2013, the ministry issued a Water Act Order for the city to restore aquatic habitat while not reducing the effectiveness of the erosion protection works that were constructed.
Work was to be completed by August 2015, but has been delayed in light of Teck’s ongoing Groundwater Remediation Plan, which includes testing the Columbia River shores adjacent to downtown for potential impacts to sediment.
The assessment work carries into next year, and those results will determine if additional remediation would be required.
“Until that happens we don’t know what, if anything, may need to be done,” said Abenante.
“It may involve planting trees, so until then we are trying to work with Teck rather than duplicate. The city has to come up with a plan but the Water Act Order does give us a bit of flexibility.
“We won’t meet the August deadline which is fine as long as we keep them abreast with what we are doing.”
So far, the city has undertaken some re-vegetation, though the trees were planted along the Esplanade thereby avoiding future rooting impacts to the wall.
Twelve seedless Acer rubrum, otherwise known as “red rocket” maples, were planted in along the walkway that over time are expected to overhang the wall and shed leaves into the river.
“The foliage will fall and cast down along the shoreline,” said Abenante. “We wanted to clean up the river front and showcase it in the community. Now we can inspect the wall, we’ve painted the diamond (wall features) and we will carry on next year with another project. Before this, the river wall had little maintenance because we couldn’t get to it. Now we can do proper maintenance and promote its beauty.”
While the wall is an impressive visual in downtown Trail, the design is utilitarian. It was originally constructed in the 1930s to protect the city against flooding though it had to be largely repaired following a significant failure in 1961 when Columbia River waters washed out a significant section. Large segments, however, are still the original structure.
“The river wall is an important component of flood protection works,” said John Howes in his report to Trail council Monday. He explained that the entire system must be inspected in detail once a year as per flood protection guidelines. A concrete fracture and degradation were identified in a 30-metre area during a recent inspection, prompting Howes to request council allot $30,000 for the high priority repair.