Crews with the provincial government are stepping in to stop the flow of water that’s threatened Hantsport and its surrounding infrastructure for more than a year.
Chuck Porter, the local MLA and minister of municipal affairs, made the announcement Friday in a Hantsport church hall.
The announcement followed a march by hundreds of residents trying to draw attention to a situation that’s become increasingly challenging since late 2017.
The aboiteau on the Halfway River, which provided the community protection from incoming sea water, failed about 14 months ago.
Since then, residents have watched as farm fields have flooded, trees and other plant life have died and erosion has threatened a cemetery and the bank where a community centre sits.
The most important thing, however, is there are residents whose homes are being badly affected, said Bill Preston, one of the organizers of Friday’s march.
“Their wells have saltwater in them, there’s sewer leakage going through with the septic fields and so forth. The properties are absolutely probably worthless.”
Preston said the community was tired of waiting and hoped the event Friday might force action.
People chanted, “Save the aboiteau, stop the flow,” as they carried signs and walked along a portion of William Hall V.C. Memorial Highway and into Hantsport, crossing a bridge that’s also threatened by flooding.
Porter credited the community for its persistence. He said workers would begin as soon as next week on a temporary fix that will stop the flow of water and ice for the winter, with design work and consultations also beginning soon on “a more robust, long-term aboiteau and solution.”
He said he’s anticipating help from the federal government with the costs.
Hansport resident Dale Janes said she was thrilled by the news, but was disappointed it took this long to get a solution.
“It took this to actually get something going and it shouldn’t have,” she said of the community pressure.
“We’ll have to keep on top of it and make sure it happens, but it sounds like it’s going to happen.”
Part of what’s contributed to the delay has been the legal wrangling between the province and Windsor and Hantsport Railway Company, owned by American businessman Bob Schmidt. They have argued about responsibility for fixing the aboiteau.
The structure was in place for about 100 years before it failed and the railway used to run across the top of the aboiteau.
In the meantime, residents have grown increasingly concerned about the fate of the bridge along Highway 1 that leads into town, along with power poles and other infrastructure.
A spokesperson for the Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Department acknowledged the legal process has been slow and said the government was worried about the spring high tide and runoff in the meantime.
Despite the steps announced Friday, the spokesperson said the province is not taking ownership of the aboiteau.