Slipping away...
Riverbank erosion a growing concern for village council, home owners

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

FORT SIMPSON (Oct 29/99) - Although residents in Fort Simpson are busy preparing for freeze-up, it's spring break-up and another summer of receding riverbanks that is on Fort Simpson village council's minds.

When council renegotiates its block funding deal with Municipal and Community Affairs in the future, it will be seeking some extraordinary funding for riverbank protection.

Portions of the bank continue to topple into the river throughout the summer. Some homeowners in the area remain very concerned.

Deborah Stipdonk said the bank has receded four feet in the three years since her family moved into their Mackenzie Drive home.

"It's pretty dramatic how wide a piece can fall off," Stipdonk said, adding that she's addressed village council, written letters and spoken to the mayor many times. "One of the nicest parts about our community is walking along that bank. I see a lot of people doing it ... if they (the politicians) don't do something about it there isn't going to be that area."

Peter Erasmus and his family, who live just a few doors down from the Stipdonks, are also troubled by the erosion.

"They should put something up there or do something to stop it," Erasmus said.

According to Prevost, riverbank protection was in the capital plan about six years ago, but "they (MACA) pulled it out for some unknown reason."

He added, "It's the village's responsibility but MACA's responsible for the funding we need. It's kind of an extraordinary thing. It's not something that happens in every municipality every day. It's got to be dealt with differently than other capital projects would."

A study was conducted by MACA several years ago to use various forms of pilings along the river, according to Prevost. Test sections were to be done to see what works best, he added.

The only work actually carried out since then was by the village when they put some grid under the sections where the largest cracks existed in the ground and vegetation was planted to further solidify the ground near the Stipdonk's home.

The bank along the water treatment plant, the power plant, the health centre and the nearby homes upstream is hit hardest by the current and is where the most damage is being done, he said.

"That's probably the worst hit area for erosion sometimes an eight or 12- foot chunk will fall off the bank," said Prevost, adding that silt is building up at the north end of the island, so erosion is less damaging there.

The landscape used to be much different decades ago. Prevost said long-time Fort Simpson resident Jim Villeneuve told him he used to live on the far side of Mackenzie Road, across from where the Nahanni Inn now stands.

That ground has since been swallowed up by the river.

"So it's coming pretty fast," Prevost said. "It's getting closer ... it's something that's got to be a priority, I guess."