By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
To service its growing business operations, the Oshawa Port Authority is looking to extend Harbour Road to reach the eastern side of its site, and council has given its first level of approval to get things moving.
At the most recent meeting of the Development Services committee, councillors voted in favour of allowing the OPA to construct a “private driveway” which would run east from the end of Harbour Road at Farewell Street around Gifford Hill to the other side of the OPA site.
According to Donna Taylor, the CEO and harbourmaster with the OPA, the new private drive is a necessity as business at the port continues to grow and truck traffic increases.
“We have had a record breaking start to the season,” Taylor says, pointing to the fact that with the current construction of a new grain storage facility, truck traffic could start to become a safety issue. “The intent of the ring road and driveway is to open up access,” she says.
The proposal has drawn criticism from members of the public who have noted that the road would steer too close to the environmentally sensitive Second Marsh. Also, some residents have previously warned councillors about the port’s financial situation following the ethanol plant debacle that has the OPA on the hook for over $4 million following arbitration with FarmTech Energy.
These concerns were reiterated at the most recent meeting.
“A grain storage terminal is proposed on the east wharf, this means 3,000 additional trucks on the road. First it’s grain, then what next?” asked resident Larry Ladd. “Endangered species such as the Blanding’s turtle inhabit the marsh areas. The wildlife and the aquatic inhabitants of the provincially significant Second Marsh can’t speak for themselves, only humans can.”
Ladd also pointed to the port’s financial situation, which auditors pointed out was on shaky ground during the previous audit of the federal entity’s books last year. It was a concern echoed by resident Tom Mitchell who told councillors it would be “reckless” to enter into any type of agreement with the OPA.
With that said, Taylor was quick to point out that the 3,000 trucks would be an annual number at the maximum, and according to the city report, the OPA has no issue covering the full cost of the private driveway.
Also, the plan for a private driveway may also have less of an impact on the Second Marsh than previously planned as it increases the size of the land buffer between the OPA operations and the wildlife habitat. The city’s Waterfront Trail will also be maintained as is.
The buffer for the marsh, which the city is attempting to acquire as part of this process, was an important point for Councillor Nester Pidwerbecki, who noted the larger space may set some residents minds at ease.
“I think some people who feel uncomfortable with what’s gone on in the past, it may bring some comfort to them,” he says.
As it stands, the city’s hands were, for the most part, tied when it came to any decision around the future extension of Harbour Road.
As a matter of fact, if the OPA so chose, they could approach the city and upon request, trigger the process to have a full scale road constructed to extend Harbour Road right onto the doorstep of the Oshawa Second Marsh.
According to the agreement signed in 1976, it stipulates that the road would be 1,983 feet, asphalt pavement with complete concrete curb and gutter work, storm sewers and sidewalks. The agreement states that the construction must begin upon six months of the written notice from the OPA and costs would be split 50/50 between the city and port.
The final vote will go to council on June 25.