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Dec. 5, 2019 | Thursday
Local News
Town urged to deal with phragmites and undersized culvert problems
Austin Kirkby was a member of Niagara-on-the-Lake council for 15 years. (Dariya Baiguzhiyeva/Niagara Now)

Austin Kirkby was anything but shy when she appeared before NOTL council Monday night.

Kirkby, who was a Niagara-on-the-Lake council member for 15 years and used to be a chair of the irrigation and agriculture committees, made a presentation to council about funding for phragmites and culverts.

“I’m honest. I’m going to be blunt here, I’m not happy,” said Kirkby.

She said she realized it was late as the budget had already been approved, but she wanted new council members to know the town has issues like undersized culverts and phragmites (invasive plants).

Kirkby said undersized culverts are a lingering problem in NOTL.

According to the 2008 NOTL Watershed Study by Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, culvert replacement was recommended to prevent upstream flooding. 

Kirkby said since the report was finished 11 years ago, nothing has changed and undersized culverts and floodplains prevent landowners from constructing buildings. 

“It is unfair to have these (problems) identified and then not do anything about them,” she told The Lake Report. “And then you’re going to do these other things with the official plan. It doesn’t sit well with me. There are things out there you should do first.”

Kirkby said she sent a letter about the issue to the town in 2016 but didn’t get a response.

Phragmites was another big issue brought up by Kirkby.

Phragmites are invasive plants that grow primarily along roadside ditches. Their seeds can be spread by the wind and their roots release chemicals that can harm other plants. Phragmites can grow higher than five metres and when not controlled, can clog drainage tiles and ditches, causing floods.

The plant can be controlled by cutting, applying herbicides or by a combination of both.

Kirkby suggested that town apply for funding from the province and buy equipment to fight phragmites.

“If the province failed to act to control them on their roads, the province should be providing funding because this is an environmental disaster,” she said. “The province is the one that created the phragmites because they didn’t control them in the first place.”

Kirkby said it is unfair for landowners to pay for a problem that wasn’t created by them.

She said she will continue putting motions regarding the issue to council through the agricultural and irrigation committee. She also encouraged residents to control phragmites on their property as much as they can. 

Victoria Steele, the town’s community engagement co-ordinator, said there was no estimated cost to replace or upgrade culverts.

It’s difficult to provide a cost for removal of phragmites as it is done on a needed basis and every area is different, she said.

“For example... along Concession 1 Road, it may have to get it cut three to four times during irrigation season,” said Steele.

“Depending on the required work, staff rent equipment and town staff complete the work or a contract company may do the work. Again, this all determined on need and availability or services and equipment, so it’s extremely difficult to put a cost to it.”

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