Significant grant money approved for water main replacement project

Provincial and federal grant money is helping fund a $9.9-million project to replace five kilometers of old water mains in Aamjiwnaang First Nation territory.

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Provincial and federal grant money is helping fund a $9.9-million project to replace five kilometers of old water mains in Aamjiwnaang First Nation territory.

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Sarnia city council recently approved the city’s $2.44-million share of the cost, including hiring an engineering technologist to handle design and project management on the work that’s over and above usual city capital spending, said engineering and operations general manager David Jackson.

Provincial and federal contributions collectively cover 73 percent of costs – $7.26 million – and Aamjiwnaang is contributing $200,000 for related roadwork.

The city owns the water mains, and the First Nation owns the affected road, but most of the water pipes aren’t buried under roadways, city staff said.

The 70-year-old cast-iron mains are breaking down, but are also undersized, leading to water pressure issues, Jackson said.

Aamjiwnaang has “been looking to do some expansion or some development projects that the low pressure has historically been somewhat of a limitation,” he said.

Aamjiwnaang officials were not immediately available for comment Friday.

“There was some concern about is there sufficient pressure to be able to service those buildings” eyed for construction, Jackson said.

“I don’t think (the low pressure has) necessarily held anything up yet,” but it has been a concern amid planning, he said.

“This will eliminate any of that risk being an issue for further projects.”

The grant funding is through the Green Infrastructure branch of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program and the city and First Nation received word their joint application – enabling eligibility for a higher amount of funding, Jackson said – was approved in April.

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Design work is expected to happen in 2023, and construction could start in 2024, Jackson said.

The funding is in place until 2026, city staff said in a report.

Whether or not to keep the engineering technologist position can be reviewed in 2027, the staff said.

Outsourcing instead of hiring for the project would likely be more expensive, staff said.

Expectations are Sarnia will put about $800,000 toward the project each year between 2024 and 2026, staff said.

The Green Infrastructure grant program is targeted at improving drinking water infrastructure and improving drinking water quality, staff said.

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