By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
The saga of a possible Harbour Road extension saw various twists and turns over the first week of February.
As of Friday, a new proposal put forth by the Oshawa Port Authority is currently tabled by city council.
At the most recent development services committee meeting, members voted in favour of referring the proposal to council for consideration.
At that same meeting, OPA Harbourmaster and CEO Donna Taylor said an answer was required by Feb. 15.
The next day, Transport Canada announced its intentions to amalgamate the port authorities of Oshawa and Hamilton.
Last September, the outgoing city council rejected a proposal from the OPA to construct a driveway to extend Harbour Road.
Port officials maintain the extension is required to meet the needs of expanding operations.
The point of contention for councillors opposing the proposal was the port declining to convey a 120-metre strip of land to act as a protective buffer for the Second Marsh.
After council rejected the proposal, the port triggered a 1976 agreement binding the City of Oshawa to begin construction on a fully-serviced extension of Harbour Road within six months.
Under that agreement, the road would be funded equally by the city and the port.
The port offered an amended agreement which includes a commitment to protect the 120-metre buffer by limiting uses of the land, having no public access to the area, and planting indigenous species in recognition of the proximity to the Second Marsh.
The new deal would also extend the current land use agreement between the city and the port for another 30 years.
In light of the federal plans, Ward 2 regional councillor Tito-Dante Marimpietri put forth the motion to table the proposal, also asking the Port Authority to hold off on its plans for the extension.
If the port declines, the city will also ask Minister of Transport Marc Garneau to step in and delay the project until the structure of an amalgamated port authority is revealed.
Ward 5 regional councillor Brian Nicholson said the Marine Act is clear, Garneau has the authority to do so.
“This is more of a protective clause if we can’t get cooperation from the port authority,” he added.
But Ward 5 city councillor John Gray voiced concern if the proposal is tabled, the city would be stuck with building a fully-serviced road.
Correspondence from Taylor to council appears to show the port is not willing to wait.
In her e-mail, Taylor states Transport Canada has been clear that all “contracts and obligations” of the OPA would be assumed by a new entity should amalgamation occur.
“Therefore, council should be guided in their decision by which option is in the best interest for the citizens of Oshawa – our proposed alternative or the continuing Harbour Road Extension Agreement,” Taylor said. “Council should also be made aware that deadlines are approaching under the agreement and the OPA will not consider putting the agreement on hold.”
Port Authority board chair Gary Valcour said the road extension needs to be done sooner than later.
“The reality is there is an agreement in place that has been triggered. We’ve never taken our foot off that particular gas pedal.”
The amended proposal is an effort to find a more “cost-beneficial way” for the extension to go forward and regardless of how the port authority will be composed in the future, Valcour is confident it will be a priority.
“We need the road,” he added.