City seeks more studies during divestiture talks

The city is planning to dive deeper into analyzing the condition of the federally owned Owen Sound harbour as it continues port divestiture talks with Transport Canada.

City manager Wayne Ritchie said the federal agency has agreed to cover the costs for the city to obtain a more detailed examination of the harbour by environmental engineers from Oakville-based Pollutech Group as well as an eco-toxicity study by Trent University.

“This will help council and the public to understand – can we operate the port as a mixed-use port and, if so, what is it going to cost us today and into the future?” Ritchie said in an interview before the start of Monday’s city council meeting.

“If we assume the port, we will be assuming it for the foreseeable future, so we need to make sure we have enough funds to do that in the appropriate manner.”

The studies, he said, will also give council information on the cost to dredge the harbour as well as any potential impacts of dredging on the local ecosystem.

“The first step is to say, can that port be dredged in an environmentally friendly manner? That’s probably the main question around that issue. And, if so, what would that (entail) and what would the cost of it be?” he said.

Owen Sound began lobbying the federal government in 2001 to pay for dredging the harbour to assist commercial shipping activities. The government’s position has been that dredging must be linked with divestiture.

In 2015, Transport Canada launched a new program for selling and divesting many of its ports.

The federally owned inner harbour in Owen Sound was one of 50 listed as available under the Ports Asset Transfer Program. The local port, the agency says, includes a 1,241-metre west harbour wall and 1,143-m east harbour wall.

City council voted in early 2016 to notify Transport Canada that the city does not want to buy the harbour, but is interested in participating in divestiture talks.

A few months later,…

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