WASAGAMING — Construction is set to begin on a flood-damaged portion of Highway 10 in Riding Mountain National Park.
In May, funding was announced to assist the park in repairing infrastructure damaged by the flooding in 2011. A portion of these funds will be used on a realignment project at Kilometre 49 on the highway.
The construction company, EF Moon of Portage la Prairie, plans to mobilize part of the construction fleet this week to be ready for next week’s construction start date.
Once work commences, the construction zone will extend 12 kilometres south on Highway 10 from the north park boundary to Hilton Trail Head. Travellers should expect some delays in the area of construction.
Over the course of the past month, the construction area has seen lots of behind-the-scenes activity.
In accordance with the park’s mandate to "protect and present nationally significant examples of Canada’s natural and cultural heritage," a number of surveys were completed to identify any species at risk or artifacts of historical or cultural significance in the construction area.
During May and June, site visits and surveys were conducted by both archeologists and biologists.
The biological survey findings resulted in ruling out the use of one area for placing construction material as it was found to have golden wing warblers, a species at risk. An additional nest sweep of the remainder of the construction zone will be completed before repairs begin next week.
In addition, throughout the construction process, steps will be taken to minimize impacts to the environment and the site will be closely monitored by park staff to ensure these steps are being followed.
The original construction of the highway has seen a number of modifications over the years.
The most recent major ones occurred in the late ’70s and early ’80s with the intention of creating a scenic parkway for visitors to enjoy. A number of trailheads — popular destinations, such as Cairns Cabin, and beautiful campgrounds, such as Moon Lake — spur off the highway.
However, the highway was not designed to accommodate heavy truck traffic. Both the size and the number of vehicles on the highway have increased dramatically with the closure of the railroad and the centralization of various suppliers and manufacturers, only adding to the deterioration of the highway.
The realignment of Kilometre 49 is the first step in Parks Canada’s commitment in mitigating the condition of Highway 10, a major thoroughfare and a vital link to many communities surrounding the park.
Plans are to explore options for future projects aimed at improving the remaining sections of the highway.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 4, 2012