Four Mile Creek is getting a long-overdue cleanup.
Niagara-on-the-Lake council has approved up to $45,000 for the cleanup of clogs and blockages on the waterway, which is used by farmers for runoff from irrigation.
Darren Mackenzie, the town’s acting director of operations, said the last recorded inspection of the creek was about five years ago.
The creek was an “ongoing issue” for residents dating back seven years, by Coun. Nick Ruller’s estimate.
The issue raised questions for Ruller on how often the creek gets inspected.
Later, Mackenzie said the Drainage Act requires towns to inspect their municipal drains every year, but Four Mile Creek is not a municipal drain.
He said there may have been some internal miscommunication at the town over who was responsible for keeping the creek flowing.
The blockages had been caused by various sources, including erosion, upstream construction and storm runoff, he added.
As the creek is used by farmers to dispense with runoff from irrigation, the irrigation community is responsible for contributing to maintenance costs attributable to its use of the creek.
However, the blockages were first reported in January 2023, a time when the agricultural community produced little to no runoff.
“All the damage that’s being caused isn’t caused by the irrigators,” Coun. Erwin Wiens told his fellow councillors in December.
The issue came to light a year ago when a resident reported a collapsed culvert near Paxton Lane in St. Davids, according to a town report.
Debate among members of the irrigation committee grew heated at a meeting in August, objecting to the possibility that irrigators would be solely responsible for bearing the cost of repairs.
Town staff agree with their assertion.
“The irrigation system should not be responsible for all maintenance on channels that other water impacts. This needs to be addressed going forward,” said a report prepared by Mackenzie in December.
This casts doubt on the question of who gets billed for the maintenance.
“We have to go through and see what is obstructing and get a ballpark on how much it’s going to cost,” Mackenzie told The Lake Report.
In a follow-up email on Jan. 15, Mackenzie said an inspection was done in December but he still had no cost estimate.
He said he expects to complete the maintenance by March.
“Then we’ll figure out who should be billed for any of those services,” he said.
“I think the big elephant in the room is the property owners don’t want to contribute any funding to cleaning up,” Wiens told council.
Coun. Sandra O’Connor said she was surprised the town was only planning to address obstructions that impact the flow of irrigation as the creek is also a natural waterway and carries storm runoff.