Robinson Consultants Inc. have been sent back to the drawing board, in a manner of speaking, to make some changes to the Mill Creek Drain report. The engineers will reconsider a 25-metre right-of-way allowance for future maintenance of the drain, especially as it relates to smaller residential lots. In addition, with respect for smaller residential lots, the 50-metre right-of-way for construction related to the upcoming work on Champlain Township’s Mill Creek Drain will be reconsidered. The engineers and Eric Leroux, municipal drainage superintendent, acknowledged that for farmland, the right-of-way would not be as significant as for those with smaller residential lots.

A three-hour meeting took place on March 9, 2022 to allow residents affected by the proposed $2.3-million project to ask questions. In all, more than 2,000 properties are being assessed for some of the costs of the approximately seven-kilometre-long drain. There are more than 500 property owners (about 700 assessed properties) in Champlain Township and in The Nation Municipality who will pay for the drainage work. The drainage area encompasses about 6,695 hectares, or 17,210 acres. Some landowners are being assessed for tens of thousands of dollars while some residential property owners are paying less than $100 according to the schedule of assessment, which uses various factors to calculate what property owners will pay. Factors include proximity to the drain, benefit, the size of one’s property, and the type of property.

In the end, the municipality did not approve the existing report, but expects to have a revised version to present to council in about one month’s time, according to Mayor Normand Riopel.

Extra water flow prompts multi-million-dollar drain project

The report outlines emergency repairs/improvements to Mill Creek between County Road 17 and the Ivaco Rolling Mill Rail Spur line and incorporating this section into the Mill Creek Municipal Drain. In addition, there will be work done to improve the draining of the existing municipal drain, which has deteriorated due to changes in land use and the drainage area since the last engineer’s report in 1974.

In 2016, a small landslide occurred which precipitated the need for some emergency work to take place. But changes in land use, tile drainage, clear-cutting for various reasons resulting erosion and further upstream, the removal of a layer of peat moss have all contributed to an increased inflow of water, coupled with more frequent heavy rainfalls, prompting the need for a makeover of the entire drain, according to the engineers.

“It’s a big project and it’s expensive,” Riopel said after the meeting, acknowledging the reasons for the work outlined by the engineers. “We also get big rains — four, five, six inches of rain in a few days. We didn’t have that kind of rain in the 70s and 80s,” he said. “But now, we have that often. With the peat moss removed, trees removed, changing crop patterns, we don’t have all of these acting as a sponge to hold the water,” Riopel said. The water has to go somewhere, he added.

“This is expensive, but it won’t be any less expensive if we wait longer to do it,” said Riopel, noting that a lot of other drains are upstream from this one, compounding the outlet problem.

Many of the questions from the public centred around the assessment, arguing that as agricultural land owners would benefit, that they should pay the lion’s share of the costs. The engineers said that there were factors used to calculate the assessments against individual properties and that while the co-efficient, or factor, might be lower for agricultural property, the amount of property was greater so that in fact, agricultural land owners were paying the greater share of the costs.

One question asked why all municipal taxpayers were not sharing in the cost of the Mill Creek Drain, but the Ontario Drainage Act stipulates that municipal drains are paid for and maintained by the land owners who benefit. A municipal drain benefits to a landowner by being an outlet for excess water to be drained off one’s property. The closer one to the municipal drain changes one’s assessment.

Some asked if it was possible to do part of the work instead of working on the entire drain. The engineers replied that an important and costly part of this project is to lower the levels of some parts of the drain and the extra cost comes in due to the rock that is there. Previous work on the drain stopped short of removing the existing rock but that work has to be done now, they said.

Doing work on part of the drain would increase the flow downstream and would only contribute to the problem, according to the engineers.

When asked about the current capacity of the drain, the engineers said they had not calculated that.

“This work will take care of frequent flows but it won’t take care of spring flooding,” said Andy Robinson.

Agricultural land owners are entitled to grants worth one-third of their assessed costs. Those grants are not included in the assessment tables included in the engineers’ report.

The original Mill Creek Drain was constructed in 1956, with a subsequent 1974 report calling for additional work to deepen, widen and remove rocks (described as drastic by the engineer of record at the time). Additional maintenance work was to be undertaken.

Then in 1994, a new report was prepared to provide for maintenance and included recommendations to improve bank capacity of the drain in the area upstream of Ritchance Road to improve downstream capacity. The report was received and processed by the township but was not adopted as a result of appeals and the decision of the Ontario Drainage Tribunal. None of those improvements or recommended work took place.


If Champlain Township is aware that work needs to be done on a municipal drain and does not take action, the engineers said the municipality and the landowners upstream could be held liable for damage caused by flooding. If someone gets flooded, the township could be in a very bad spot for liability and the landowner is included, according to the engineers.

Earlier, Kevin Wilson of Wilson Farms had asked if the plan to improve the drain to withstand a “1 in 10-year event” included information about the current rating of the drain today, but the engineers replied that they had not looked at the current rating. Later in the meeting, a resident asked if land owners and the municipality would still be liable if an event more significant than a “1 in 10-year” event took place.

The engineer replied that the idea is to try to minimize impact during the growing season and that one has to expect flooding from time to time, citing the existence of crop insurance for such occurrences.

What if the costs are higher than contained in the report?

If the costs exceed the estimates by more than one-third, the drain report will have to come back to council and there would have to be another meeting of the land owners. But if the cost increases by less than one-third, the municipality is allowed to proceed.

The municipal drainage superintended told the audience that the municipality would look at options to cut costs, perhaps supervising the work itself or taking on the work for some sections. The project could be re-tendered, Leroux pointed out.

Construction costs are estimated at $1,588,139.66; contingency costs are $235,000; engineering and administration costs are $255,000 and other (incl. allowance) costs are: $193,037.59, for a total of $2,271,177.25.