Manitou River bridge on Govt. Rd. to be replaced

BRIDGE SOON OUT––From the east, looking across the Manitou River bridge on the Government Road in Tehkummah, the turning to the left just beyond the bridge is the Michael’s Bay Road. The bridge must be replaced this spring and summer, interrupting vehicular traffic along the Government Road, with a deadline for completion of July 31. photo by Lori Thompson

Traffic will be interrupted but work to be finished by July 31, 2014

TEHKUMMAH—Tehkummah will soon be without one of its east-west major thoroughfares as the over 80-year-old Government Road bridge, which carries traffic across the Manitou River, undergoes a complete reconstruction.

At a special council meeting on April 15, Tehkummah council moved to go ahead with the Government Road bridge replacement project, giving authorization to Kresin Engineering to award the tender for the Government Road bridge to R.M. Belanger Limited in the amount of $1,126,298.12 (including taxes) discounted by the amount of $50,000 for a contingency. Councillors Paul Bowerman and Eric Russell opposed the motion.

Reeve Gary Brown explained that the bridge reconstruction project has been in the works for five years, since the municipality’s engineers first alerted Tehkummah to the bridge’s crumbling infrastructure.

Tehkummah applied to the federal government’s Community Infrastructure Improvement Fund and was approved for $900,000, with Tehkummah paying the one-third cost of $300,000. However, due to the costs associated with environmental assessments because of the ecologically important Manitou River the bridge spans, the project is coming in over budget, the reeve explained.

In an earlier meeting, Councillor Paul Bowerman said, “we can’t spend money we don’t have. We know how much we have to spend ($900,000) and we can’t go over.” However, Reeve Gary Brown, at the same meeting, echoed the concerns of his councillors over liability. “The thing is,” he said, “if we don’t go ahead with the bridge, we have a liability issue if the bridge goes out.”

The bridge was widened from a one-lane bridge approximately 20 years ago, but the new bridge will see it wider, longer and higher.

The closure of this bridge will, however, mean a period of headaches for some residents at this south shore community, particularly the residents of Michael’s Bay Road and visitors to the Royal Michael’s Bay Restaurant.

“We’re doing everything we can to try and help,” Reeve Brown said, noting that the municipality is paying an extra $20,000 out of pocket for a pedestrian foot bridge to cross the Manitou River while construction takes place. And as for visits to the restaurant, the reeve suggested a temporary taxi service by Royal Michael’s Bay which could “add to the experience.”

While there isn’t an exact start date, the rushing water of the Manitou River is still too high. The project must be completed by July 31 on order of the Ministry of Natural Resources as salmon will begin to spawn in the river in August. The reeve said the municipality may enlist the MNR to close the dam at Sandfield for a short period of time during construction, if possible.

Access points to the Government Road (other than its end points of Tehkummah village and Providence Bay) are Yonge Street in Mindemoya (going past the Central Manitoulin Public School and continuing to the Government Road) and along the Case Road which leaves Highway 542 just east of the hamlet of Sandfield. The Yonge Street route gives alternate access to the Government Road west of the Manitou River and the Case Road route gives alternate access to the Government Road east of the Manitou River.

 by Lori Thompson with files from Alicia McCutcheon