News / Halifax

A 'big milestone:' First phase of daylighting Dartmouth's Sawmill River nears completion

Water is flowing through the first section of the river, but it will still be a few years before fish can climb from the Halifax Harbour to Sullivan's Pond.

A man snaps a photo of the newly day-lit portion of the Sawmill River in Dartmouth on Monday, Feb, 5, 2018.

Zane Woodford/Metro

A man snaps a photo of the newly day-lit portion of the Sawmill River in Dartmouth on Monday, Feb, 5, 2018.

Water is now flowing down the fish ladder in the first section of the day-lit Sawmill River, meaning the first phase of the project is almost complete.

“They passed a big milestone on the weekend,” Coun. Sam Austin said on Monday.

“The temporary dam is gone and now the whole flow of the water is going down the new spillway.”

Now all that’s left of the first phase of the Halifax Water project is to finish landscaping around the waterway and build a new permanent pedestrian bridge, running from the cenotaph at Sullivan’s Pond over to the crosswalk across Ochterloney Street.

If that’s done by March, Halifax Water will get $6.3 million in federal and provincial funding towards the budgeted total of $11.6 million for the first phase of the project.

The river was buried and diverted through stormwater pipes in 1972 after Hurricane Beth flooded downtown Dartmouth. Halifax Water took on this project because those pipes were nearing the end of their lifespan, and the federal government required fish passage to be part of the design when replacing the aging infrastructure.

The second phase of the project will see the rest of the river opened up, down through the intersection of Prince Albert Road, Portland Street and Alderney Drive. That will allow fish to climb the river from the harbour up to Sullivan’s Pond and through to Lake Banook.

First, Halifax Regional Municipality needs to decide what it wants to do with that intersection.

“That intersection has to be blown up anyway,” Austin said.

“The traffic department has never been very happy with the way that section functions, so there’s a lot that potentially is gonna happen down there.”

Austin said his focus is on giving up as much asphalt as possible, in order to day light a larger portion of the river, and provide an active transportation trail along it.

There are currently four lanes flowing through the intersection from Prince Albert Road to Alderney Drive, and Austin thinks it could be just two.

The timing of the second phase depends on whether Halifax Water can secure more of the federal infrastructure funding it’s due to receive for the first phase.

Austin said if that happens, the second phase could happen in 2019. If not, it will likely happen in 2020, funded completely by Halifax Water ratepayers. It's unclear what the second phase will cost.

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