Decades-old plan to 'daylight' downtown Dartmouth river enters final phase

Funding is now in place to complete a project that's been in the works for decades — the 'daylighting' of downtown Dartmouth's Sawmill River.

Nova Scotia Environment Minister Tim Halman announced the province's $14.1-million contribution to the project at Alderney Landing in Dartmouth Friday.

"This is a landmark project for Dartmouth," said Halman.

"Along with replacing an aging storm water system, this project will continue the municipality's work to showcase this historic channel, reinvigorate a popular pedestrian corridor for this community, and create revitalized infrastructure in this area."

Mayor Mike Savage echoed that sentiment when he talked about the $14.1 million the municipality will contribute to the project.

"Not only will it continue the work that has already been done to 'daylight' Sawmill Creek, it will further improve fish habitat and create greater resilience in the face of climate change," said Savage. "That's something that we at the city take very seriously."

Part of the Sawmill River project with 162 Ochterloney Street in the background.
The river is shown in 2021. (Pam Berman/CBC)

Sam Austin, the councillor who represents downtown Dartmouth, noted the scale of the project.

"To me it is the most significant investment in downtown Dartmouth in terms of government infrastructure since Alderney (Landing) was built," said Austin.

"It's development, it's beautification, it's new park space, it's transportation and it's environmental," he said. "We're talking about opening up on the lakes and how important and precious they are to Dartmouth."

Halifax Water will provide $4.3 million from the money it collects as part of a regional development charge.

Six years ago, the partners in conjunction with the federal government completed work on the first phase of the project —installing a pedestrian bridge at Sullivans Pond to span a newly exposed section of the river.

Although some of the river still runs underground, the river flows freely in fenced-off trenches along a stretch of green space next to Ochterloney Street.

Sam Austin talks about shelter opening on Windmill Road
Sam Austin is the councillor for the district that includes downtown Dartmouth. (David Laughlin/CBC)

The plan, over the next two years, is to complete the project by removing the remaining metal culvert and uncovering the river to the intersection where Prince Albert Road turns into Alderney Drive at Portland Street.

The existing culvert under that intersection will need to be replaced, but that won't happen until next year when a route is created to steer traffic around the intersection.

Peter Maynard, a project engineer at Halifax Water, said the traffic workaround is to extend Dundas Street so that it connects with Canal Street.

"So there will be a new intersection in place there by the end of this year," Maynard told reporters at the funding announcement.