North Huron council votes to decommission Howson Dam after years of debate

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NORTH HURON – The Howson Dam will be decommissioned.

After years of debate and reports, North Huron council has voted to remove the entire structure after a report from Chant Limited said rehabilitation of the asset is not possible.

“While clearly the Howson Dam has been in use and operated for more than 100 years, the condition of the structure has significantly deteriorated over time and there is little doubt from Chant’s investigations that the south dam structure has now reached end of life.”

Council directed staff to initiate the process to decommission the dam and instructed them to prepare a future report on potential financial impacts.

Staff was also directed to issue a request for proposals (RFP) for the "procurement of services to decommission the dam."

The township hired Chant Ltd., an engineering company based in Aurora, to prepare a report regarding the dam that included reviewing the existing reports and documents.

Fieldwork on the South Dam structure took 10 concrete cores and checked the concrete for soundness and strength.

Chant assessed the structure for its suitability for rehabilitation and provided recommendations to council of practical rehabilitation methods.

The recommendations totalled in the millions.

“The results of the Chant Limited investigation indicate that the condition of the existing concrete does not qualify the south dam as a candidate for rehabilitation. Engineers have stated that without significant dollars and additional support provided by a new concrete addition, the dam is not suitable to remain,” said Jamie McCarthy, director of public works, told council in her report.

“Construction cost estimates from engineers to provide the necessary support range from $1,974,000 to $4,224,000. It is important to note that these cost estimates do not take into consideration construction contingency costs, engineering, permits, the north weir, and reinstatements.”

Added McCarthy, “The data collected by the experts also suggests that delaying decisions regarding the future of the Howson Dam will result in increased liability on the part of the municipality due to the poor state of the asset.”

Reeve Bernie Bailey and Deputy Reeve Trevor Seip were the two nay votes in a motion that passed 5 – 2 to start the process of decommissioning the dam.

Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times