Chemainus River bridge will be replaced

The Chemainus River bridge on Chemainus Road will be replaced using $5 million in federal cash.

The Chemainus River bridge on Chemainus Road will be replaced using $5 million in federal cash.

North Cowichan Mayor Jon Lefebure, along with Nanaimo-Alberni MP James Lunney and Union of B.C. Municipalities representative Joe Stanhope, made the announcement Jan. 19 at the municipal hall.

The bridge, which was constructed of creosoted lumber in 1952, will be replaced this summer.

“That (wooden) bridge is in rough shape, and we only have probably a year or (a little) more life left on it,” Lefebure said.

“We’re going to replace that creosoted lumber with a steel and concrete bridge that will be two lanes wide — if you’ve ever driven the current bridge, it’s a bit of a game of chicken because it’s just larger than a single lane.”

There’ll also be a section for pedestrians and cyclists on the structure.

“And we’re going to improve the fish habitat around the bridge,” Lefebure added.

“We’re going from 12 piers to two to support the bridge, and we’re going to raise it so there’s going to be a significant improvement in water flow under the bridge, less likelihood of log jams happening there, and of particular interest to me, we’re going to be working closely with Halalt (First Nation) on this project.”

The $5-million grant — coming from the $2 billion federal gas tax fund managed in B.C. by the UBCM — will cover the cost of the new bridge.

“The cost of that bridge would have had a large impact on our taxpayers if we had to raise it through our property taxes, so we are very lucky to be receiving a grant to do this,” Lefebure said.

He also noted precautions are being taken to protect the river’s ecosystem during construction.

“We’re doing diapering, which is the technical engineering term for providing tarpaulins underneath to catch anything that is falling as the bridge is dismantled, so that’s something we’re going to be very careful with,” he said.

“And (construction) will be done during (federal) Fisheries’ window.”

Traffic will be rerouted during construction, which is slated to happen over approximately four months this summer.