Milton dam repair work getting underway

Tina Comeau
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It has been talked about for years and put off for years, but this week repairs to the Milton dam will finally get underway.

Making repairs to the structure is something that was flagged by town staff several years ago.  But the cost of the repairs – and the fact the repairs were not considered critical at the time – saw the project get deferred from one year to the next.

When the latest tenders for the project were opened in May, the lowest bid – after a required 18 per cent contingency was added into the cost – came in at $599,888 plus HST. That was around $150,000 higher than tenders one year earlier. Reaction around the council table was mixed. There was concern over the high cost, and there was concern the cost would continue to rise the longer the project was put off.

But, as it turns, out the project won’t cost town taxpayers as much as first anticipated. Yarmouth Mayor Phil Mooney says the town has been able to secure around $200,000 in provincial funding for the project. The Municipality of Yarmouth (since part of Lake Milo and all of Doctors Lake are in the municipality) is providing around $100,000 for the project.

“So we’ve been able to save the town taxpayers around $300,000,” says Mooney.

Parts of the dam that need to be repaired are the fish ladder, the concrete spillway and the catwalk to access the dam. 

There has been talk in the past of concern over what would happen should the dam ever fail – this has ranged from concerns over Vancouver Street, the most direct route to the Yarmouth Regional Hospital, and also the impact on lakes that feed into the dam. It’s been said if the dam ever failed the water level of these lakes could be altered dramatically.

In preparation for the dam repair work, the level of Lake Milo has purposely been lowered. Frank Grant of Yarmouth Recreation says they’re hoping the lower lake level won’t lead to any interruption in recreational activities at Lake Milo this summer, but he says they’ll be monitoring the situation closely.

“The only possible thing, and this has happened even on other summers when we’ve had low rain, is when we have low water it usually means high bacteria counts in the swimming area, so that’s the only worry that I have,” Grant says. “I’m confident that we’re still going to be able to offer our sailing and canoeing and dragon boating programs, but it’s just with the swimming area, if we do have low water and we do have high bacteria counts, obviously we have to close down the beach until we get better counts.”

If that happens, Grant says they’ll do “tests, upon tests, upon tests” until they get three consecutive positive readings to re-open the swimming area.

Grant notes that because Yarmouth Recreation is locked in a contract with the Nova Scotia Life Saving Society for lifeguarding services at Lake Milo, if the lake is closed to swimming then during that time lifeguards would be relocated to John’s Cove beach.

David Ernst, the town’s engineer, says permits from the environment and fisheries departments give the town until the end of September to complete the work on the dam. However, he says, the town is aiming to have the work completed by the end of August.

Organizations: Yarmouth Regional Hospital, Nova Scotia Life Saving Society

Geographic location: Lake Milo, Yarmouth, Vancouver Street

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