Kent council hopes a snow fence pilot project will be a solution to hazardous, difficult-to-clear drifting snow. (File Photo/Jacoba Schroevers)

District of Kent to implement snow fence pilot project

$8,000 project to help prevent hazardous, drifting snow, and more from Kent council

Winter preparations were made during the first meeting of the new District of Kent (DOK) council Wednesday night.

Staff proposed a snow fence pilot project to test the effectiveness of fencing in improving safety and reducing the need for snow plowing.

A staff report said snow fences are designed to tackle the blowing and drifting snow that causes poor visibility and creates hazardous driving conditions.

Drifting snow creates more difficulties for road clearing, said Director of Engineering Services Mick Thiessen.

“The District is now investigating the use of snow fencing in problematic areas to minimize the amount on snowdrift on roadways as a safety precaution and to reduce significant overtime costs associated with multiple passes of the snow plow,” reads the staff report.

Temporary snow fencing is typically made from wood or plastic mesh fence, held in place by metal stakes. The fences have to be installed parallel to roadways and offset about 140 feet (height-dependent) to provide adequate coverage.

The fences could cost up to $8,000, to be pulled from the District’s Snow and Ice Control Budget.

“How will this be assessed as to whether it’s successful or not?” asked councillor Watchorn.

Thiessen explained the success of the fences will be based on year over year comparison.

“Ideally we have to have similar circumstances and conditions. Every winter event will be different,” Thiessen said. “But we can look at it from a cost perspective: how much we paid for clearing snow drifts in the area in previous years and compare that to how much we had to clear with the snow fencing in place.”

Staff proposed a few roadways as options: McDonald Road East, McCartney Road and Tranmer Road near the Haig Highway.

Councillor Spaeti was concerned about proposed locations, asking Thiessen why sections of McDonald and McCartney Road – with only one or two properties to be impacted– were being considered.

Thiessen said in past years, clearing those section cost the District close to $12,000 on equipment, labour and third party costs. About 90 hours of staff time – including over time – was spent keeping them clear.

Spaeti opposed the motion for the project, but it was passed with support from councillors Schwichtenberg and Watchorn. The fence’s location is yet to be determined and will come after council consults with homeowners along proposed roadways.

Related: WATCH: Photos of snow and ice around Agassiz Harrison

Concerned by delay

On Oct. 10, DOK council decided to send a letter to the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) expressing its concern with delays in the approval process for the proposed MS1 Drainage and Habitat Enhancement Project.

The Project is intended to tackle ditch management to prevent property flooding, a process that requires the District to apply for Change Approvals with the province – something that’s been a struggle for a number of years, says mayor Sylvia Pranger, in part because the District has to prove its compliance to a number of environmental policies.

“We’re trying to be cognizant of the environmental issues but we know that we need to drain the land,” Pranger said. “If we can’t clean the whole thing than it impedes the flow.”

An application made in the spring wasn’t approved until September, and even then only gave permission to clear a small section of the ditch. Unable to clear it entirely, Pranger said there are buildups that impact valuable farmland.

“If soil stays wet too long, it changes the soil structure…” she said, adding nutrients can be lost and farmers are often unable to access portions of their farm-able land.

“Drainage ditches are there to drain farmland, and if you can’t drain farmland and if the water can’t get to the pump station, it defeats the whole purpose.”

Chief Administrative Officer Wallace Mah said the ditch hasn’t been cleaned thoroughly in at least ten years.

“Consequently there are bottle necks,” he said. “Farmers and stakeholders end up dealing with the consequences of their farmland being flooded out.”

At the Feb. 14 council meeting, Pranger said: “This is something we have to do and we will get it done, but it is disappointing that we cannot maintain the ditches in the way that we should be.”

The letter to FLNRORD was initially kept in-camera but council made the decision to release it at the Oct. 22 regular council meeting.

Related: Opinion: The never ending saga of the McCallum ditch

Say goodbye to Agassiz reindeer, Santa

It’s time to say goodbye to a familiar signal of the holiday season in Agassiz. The longstanding steel-framed Santa Claus, reindeer and Christmas trees on Municipal Hall will are set to be replaced by LED bulbs this December.

Assembly and installation of the traditional display requires valuable staff hours, but new, permanent multi-coloured LED lighting will bring Agassiz’s Christmas display into the 21st century and save the District building from wear and tear.

For $6,700 USD, efficient, durable and longer-lasting LED lighting will become a permanent fixture on the perimeter of the building this year, and if all goes as planned, will also replace light displays on Pioneer Avenue and a portion of Highway 9 by Christmas, 2019.

Jennifer Thornton, director of community services and projects, said DOK can save an estimated $1,540 yearly on installation and electricity costs and will have the ability to program the lights to different colours, fades and flashes for different holidays and occasions.

The motion for the new lights was passed by council.

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