Observers have asserted that during heavy rain water emerges from the culvert at such velocity that it retains the shape of a cube. DON RICKERS

Rice Road stormwater pond overflow damaging environment

It needs to be fixed, come hell or high water.

That’s the attitude several local organizations have taken regarding the stormwater management pond at Rice Road at Highway 20, which empties into the fragile headwaters of 12 Mile Creek between the Lions Club and Pelham Cares.

Brian Green, who sits on the board of directors of the Niagara chapter of Trout Unlimited Canada (TUC), said that the stream flows north from the pond via a culvert under Highway 20, and meanders towards Hollow Road. He contends that the volume of runoff has been so great at times that it has caused significant erosion damage, washing soil away in the creekbed and affecting aquatic and plant life.

Property damage is also a result, said Green.

“Jim Overholt has a farm down there, and has been complaining for years about the volume of sediment washing down through the creek.”

It’s an intermittent problem. Some days the stream is barely a trickle. But Green said that after one stormy downpour in January, the outflow emerged with such velocity that it was cube-shaped, conforming to the shape of the culvert. In recent years, other witnesses have described the same phenomenon to The Voice.

Dennis Edell, president of the Niagara Chapter of TUC, views it as an opportunity to correct a longstanding problem in the last remaining cold water watershed in Niagara. He said that Brook Trout habitat is threatened, and with the ever-increasing density of development in East Fonthill, this situation will only get worse unless action is taken.

“We strongly encourage council to take appropriate and immediate action to counter the damaging effects of the inadequately designed outflow from this stormwater pond,” wrote Edell in a letter to Pelham Town Council.

If you’re Pelham Cares, you’re close to losing your building. Something’s got to be done.

In the past, TUC has proposed several solutions to Town staff, as designed by fluvial geomorphologist and chair of the Niagara chapter’s Project Committee, Professor Ian Smith.

TUC has offered to assist with potential remedies, such as planting trees to stabilize and shade the pond.

Upper Canada Consultants, who designed the stormwater management pond, was theoretically required to design the outflow to meet required minimum provincial standards. The problem, said Green, is that the standard doesn’t take into account what is called, “erosion threshold,” when high-velocity water causes desedimentation in fragile soils, such as the sandy loam of the Fonthill Kame.

The Niagara Chapter of Trout Unlimited Canada, the Fonthill Lions, and Pelham Cares have all sent letters to council to encourage action.

“Upper Canada Consultants approved it, the Conservation Authority approved it, the Town approved it, everybody approved it,” said Green, speaking of the stormwater management pond and culvert. “And now we’re faced with a bit of a disaster. If you’re Pelham Cares, you’re close to losing your building. Something’s got to be done.”