Province confirms additional environmental assessment not required
Guelph, ON, March 21, 2017– The City has received the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Glenn Murray’s, decision that a higher level of environmental assessment (EA) is not needed to move forward with the reconstruction of Niska Road and replacement of the bridge.
“We’re very pleased Minister Murray is satisfied with the level of environmental assessment we’ve undertaken to thoroughly study the Niska Road area and fully understand our community’s concerns,” says Kealy Dedman, the City’s General Manager and City Engineer. “We’re now ready to proceed with the much needed improvements to Niska Road that support Guelph’s safe and efficient transportation system.”
“This project was originally approved by Council in December 2015. We were then, and still are now, confident in the City’s processes and plans. Council thanks staff for their tireless work along with the engagement from the community. I am extremely pleased that the Minister’s decision has reaffirmed that confidence,” says Mayor Cam Guthrie. “It is unfortunate that we’ve lost two construction seasons while awaiting this decision initiated by the Part II Order requests. I believe I speak for many within the community, especially now that the bridge has been closed due to safety concerns, that I’m glad that we can finally move forward.”
As the Niska Road project progresses, it will incorporate the following work as planned and budgeted by the City, and reaffirmed as needed by the Minister:
- A Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) will be completed before the detailed design stage and reviewed by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport;
- As part of the public consultation, the final HIA will be provided to interested community members and made available on guelph.ca/niskaroad;
- and the community will be consulted on integrating cycling lanes into the final design.
The final design will also be available on guelph.ca/niskaroad before construction starts.
The next steps for the project include conducting the HIA to inform the design for the Niska Road bridge, and starting the natural heritage study. The natural heritage study will look at ground conditions and groundwater levels, and will inform how the City will reduce impacts from construction on the natural landscape including recommendations for wildlife crossings.
“We will be updating environmental studies and conducting ongoing environmental monitoring as we work toward a detailed design for the road and bridge that meets our community’s needs and respects the natural and cultural environment,” added Ms. Dedman. “The environmental and heritage studies will be our focus for the next four months, and we look forward to sharing a proposed design this fall.”
The City issued its notice of completion for the Niska Road EA to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) last February and responded to concerns outlined in four, Part II Order Requests filed by community members, in April and May, 2016. The Part II Order Requests asked for a higher level of assessment—more environmental studies and community consultation—than was already completed and planned.
The Niska Road Bridge was closed at the end of February due to safety concerns about its condition and vulnerability to further deterioration from high spring water levels. The bridge will remain closed until construction of the new bridge is complete in 2019.
The estimated cost for the recommended improvements to the road is approximately $2.1 million and the bridge is $2.4 million. A total of $450,000 was been approved in the City’s 2017 capital budget. There will be no additional cost to conduct the HIA or natural heritage studies, which were already planned and budgeted.
To date, the City has invested more than $650,000 on the Schedule C Project Municipal Class Environmental Assessment for Niska Road.
The Niska Road study extends from the Downey Road to the City limits.
For more information about the Niska Road environmental assessment and approved improvements to the bridge and road, please visit guelph.ca/niskaroad.
For more information
Kealy Dedman, General Manager/City Engineer
Engineering and Capital Infrastructure Services
519-822-1260 extension 2248