Construction crews began structural work on the dam at McLean Mill National Historic Site the week of March 15, 2021. Work is expected to continue until the end of April. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Construction crews began structural work on the dam at McLean Mill National Historic Site the week of March 15, 2021. Work is expected to continue until the end of April. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Construction work begins on McLean Mill dam

Structural improvement project has been on the books since 2018

Construction to improve the dam at the McLean Mill log pond started on March 15.

The long-awaited work is the final part of a process that began half a dozen years ago with the realignment of Kitsuksis Creek through a portion of the mill site. The latest work is being done with onsite environmental consultants watching for potential discharge of contaminated water from the mill’s log pond into Kitsuksis Creek.

READ: City of Port Alberni takes over McLean Mill pond project

West Coast Aquatic started the original stream diversion project at the mill in late 2015, in response to a provincial dam safety report that stated concerns with the small dam at the mill. Decommissioning of the sluice gate, which dated back to the 1990s, was supposed to be the final phase of the project.

‘When we moved the stream this is work that was left outstanding,” city CAO Tim Pley said.

READ: McLean Mill historic site needs further testing

READ MORE: Future of McLean Mill in question after log pond incident

In the fall of 2018 the Alberni Valley Enhancement Society began work on removing the wooden sluice gate—which controlled release of the water from the mill’s log pond into Kitsuksis Creek across the main road cutting through the mill site. Something went wrong and the pond drained into the creek, revealing contaminants in the pond.

Bowerman Excavating Ltd. of Port Alberni is undertaking the onsite work, while Northwest Hydraulic Consultants Ltd. are overseeing project engineering. They drew up the options in 2012 to realign the creek around the mill pond. Two organizations—D.R. Clough Consulting and TerraWest Environmental—are providing environmental expertise and oversight.

The total project budget is $319,678, which includes engineering design, supervision, environmental monitoring and contingency, said Ken Watson, major projects coordinator for the city.

Construction taking place this month includes a retrofit of the low-level pipe outlet and installation of a new outlet valve, removal of a wooden fishway and sluiceway culvert, replacement of a log bridge with a concrete bridge deck and installation of concrete sidewalls and rock buttresses.

RELATED: Stakeholders wait for dam, fish ladder fix at McLean Mill

RELATED: Alberni still no closer to fixing McLean Mill dam

RELATED: Upgrades coming to McLean Mill fishway

Construction machinery will be in operation Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. until the end of April.

The mill site is still open to visitors during the day, except for areas cordoned off due to construction. Check the Facebook page and website for hours when the gift shop and washrooms are open.

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