Queen’s death, fish nesting area helped delay hovercraft project
The reconstruction of Ontario Place, the death of the Queen and a walleye nesting site are among the roadblocks that have slowed plans for a cross-lake hovercraft service that was due to launch this summer.
Instead, it will wait a year, while Hoverlink Ont. Inc. works out all the kinks, says CEO Chris Morgan.
Last week, Morgan’s company announced the delay, citing unspecified delays with “governing bodies” on both sides of Lake Ontario.
On the Toronto side, the hovercraft service is supposed to dock at Ontario Place, just east of Trillium Park.
However, with the rebuilding of Ontario Place to create the entertainment and wellness facility, Therme Canada, Morgan said he is worried about his customers’ safety.
“I have a safety issue concern with letting people off in a construction zone that’s that hectic,” the Niagara-on-the-Lake resident said in an interview Monday.
Though the reconstruction work will be on the west side of Ontario Place, the east entrance for Trillium Park will be used for a lot of the bulldozers and dump trucks, which would affect Hoverlink, he said.
There’s also a royal hiccup, he said.
After the Queen died last year, federal contracts legally needed to be changed to say “his majesty,” which can’t happen until the coronation of King Charles in May, Morgan said.
“All federal contracts used to have ‘her majesty’ and they have to change it to his majesty,” he said.
So, getting that done in addition to everything else was a big headache.
And in Port Weller, there is a walleye nesting site near where the landing structure for the hovercraft will sit and that had some people concerned, Morgan said.
The worry was that the walleye nesting site could be damaged by the structure, not by the hovercraft.
The issue has been addressed and the company is awaiting for its mitigation measures to be reviewed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
The company addressed the problem by moving the landing structure and by limiting how much of it will be in the water, Morgan said.
As well, he said, more than 90 per cent of Hoverlink’s pre-construction work on both sides of the lake has been completed, including soil, environmental, bat, bird and species-at-risk studies.
Back in Toronto, a problem most affecting the project launch is installation of sewage, water, electrical and gas services for the reconstruction of Ontario Place, and that work will be happening close to Hoverlink’s docking area at Trillium Park, he said.
Since passengers need to pass through Trillium Park to board the hovercraft, he’s concerned, Morgan said.
“It’s not safe until you’ve put those lines of servicing in (like), the electrical, the plumbing and sewage,” he said.
“I’m not having anybody in any of that, mixing with that because I’m not comfortable,” he added.
Once the servicing is done, it needs approvals from multiple governing bodies before Morgan’s company can do any work — like build a bridge that would allow people to bypass Trillium Park and cross over the water.
There are many moving parts in the process, he said.
He also needs to wait until he has access to start construction on the Toronto side, which he hopes happens soon, but that all depends on when the servicing is finished.
He’ll need to receive the go-ahead from Ontario Place to start his construction.
“I’d rather go slow and get it done right because I don’t get a chance to change it afterwards,” he said.
Along with an electric shuttle bus service he’ll be offering customers, he hopes to have a paid valet service at both ports, too. Some proceeds from the valet will go back into the community.
Morgan doesn’t see the year-long delay as a failure – failure would be if he “said we’re not running the service.”
“I just had more people at church (Sunday) hug me going, ‘Don’t you worry. Don’t you give up,’ ” said Morgan.
“I said, ‘I’m not giving up, I’ve gone too far. I can’t turn around now guys. I have to keep moving,’ ” he added.
Somer Slobodian, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Lake Report