Owen Sound Sun Times
Author: Don Crosby • May 30th, 2018

Brockton council has approved removal of a portion of the Truax Dam on the Saugeen River near Walkerton.

The dam is a barrier to fish moving up and down river and needs to be repaired.

“We are very pleased to work with the Lake Huron Fishing Club and Bruce Power on this important environmental project. The Saugeen River, running through Walkerton is one of Brockton’s natural assets providing some of the best fishing in the world,” said Brockton Mayor David Inglis. “Following the appropriate engineering studies the partial removal of the dam will support fishing enthusiasts while creating a beautiful natural public space that can be enjoyed by area residents and visitors and ensure ease of access for canoeists and kayakers.”

The project will see the eastern portion of the structure removed and the area rehabilitated to a more natural state, with a new beach. The work wil also address liability concerns Brockton has had.

Removal of a portion of the dam will allow fish to migrate through the area. It will also improve water quality and create a healthier ecosystem for fish to thrive.

“It’s an aging piece of infrastructure that no longer has a suitable or useful purpose; there are probably some hazardous and safety issues with the dam,” said Jeff Graham of GSS Engineering.

“It has also been identified as an impediment for fish migration, especially native fish like bass, muskie and northern pike that can’t get up past that dam under low flows or high flows.”

Graham told Brockton council that a portion of the dam on the south side of the river will remain. The area immediately upstream of this portion of the dam will be filled with clean concrete and covered with a fine gravel topping and will provide a public space overlooking the river. This public space will also feature new access points to the river for canoeists, kayakers and anglers.

After a public meeting on Oct. 5, 2016, where the public had the opportunity to discuss partial removal or complete removal of the dam, council decided on partial removal.

At its January 22, 2018 meeting, council entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Lake Huron Fishing Club which will work with GSS Engineering to carry out the dam removal.

Bruce Power has committed to providing up to $380,000, the estimated cost of the project.

“We are proud to be a part of the Truax Dam Removal Project, which will have important, longterm benefits to fish species in our area. We recognize the importance of our natural surroundings and are committed to assisting in various community-driven environmental initiatives,” James Scongack, vice president of corporate affairs and environment with Bruce Power, said in a news release.

Work is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2019.

“Bruce Power hopes to show the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans that there will be additional fish grown, not only at the dam site but allow access for more fish further upstream tributaries; there will be a net enhancement of fish productivity out of the Saugeen River that is used as part of (Bruce Power’s) licensing process and their agreement with DFO for operation of Bruce nuclear,” said Graham. Coun. Steve Adams raised concerns about a possible drop in water levels of the river as it passes through Walkerton once part of the dam has been removed. He also worried that the existing walking trail would be quite far away from the river’s edge with a drop in water levels.

Graham said the water levels would not be affected by the partial dam removal, with the same amount of water coming down stream once part of the dam is removed.

“The dam right now doesn’t generate any water on its own, whatever comes in at the top end flows out the bottom. So whatever you see at the bridge by Tim Hortons will be the same now as after the dam is removed,” he said. “I don’t think it will be a rock garden, it will be a river with low flows, medium flows and high flows at times.”

Graham said the walking trail is quite close to the river and during floods and peak flows the trail is covered in water.

“That trail will be more useful after the dam removal; admittedly although you will be separated further from the water than you are now. I would say it’s a pros and cons thing,” Graham said.

Graham said he is not too concerned the release of sediment one part of the dam is removed.

“This river is really big and has tremendous energy during flood flows. It’s only eight feet deep and the dam forms a very small impediment to the river when under flood… and a lot of fine silt and mud carry right through,” Graham said.

Graham said he expects tenders for the work to be let this fall and work to begin late summer of 2019.

“We’re very excited about this project and all the natural benefits it can provide. We are passionate about sport fishing and our waterways and this is a great opportunity to improve the health and integrity of the river for generations to come.” -Phil Hahn, President of the Lake Huron Fishing Club.