Steve McCulloch and Sandy Golding had some serious concerns about the Mill Creek Drain repair project, but those concerns were recently put to rest in a meeting with Champlain Township Mayor Normand Riopel and Drainage Superintendent Eric Leroux.

Work crews from contractors are currently undertaking the project to clean out the waterway, which is estimated to cost around $2.3 million. The drain and drainage area affects more than 17,000 acres, 2,100 properties, and more than 500 landowners. The project is authorized by Champlain Township under the provincial Drainage Act. Each landowner is required to contribute financially to the cost of the project based on how much of the drain flows through their property and the estimated benefit it has to their property. McCulloch and Golding’s property is on the south side of County Road 17 near L’Orignal where the drain passes under the road.

Recently, Golding saw workers on the property and was alarmed by their unannounced presence. They told Golding all of the trees would be removed and the entire bank replaced with stone. McCulloch and Golding both enjoy the privacy of their backyard and the nature the creek and woods attract to their property.

“We’ve had two mallards (ducks) come back year after year,” McCulloch said. Up to six cardinals have also been spotted in the woods by the creek. McCulloch was also concerned any excavation along the creek bank would lead to erosion.

Leroux and Riopel met with Golding and McCulloch at the site on August 3.

“We’re not here to clean out the whole thing,” Leroux said. He explained stone will only be placed on part of the bank. Leroux said other property owners had already reported erosion in places where no repairs had been made. He assured Golding and McCulloch every effort will be made to preserve the wooded area.

The complete report on the Mill Creek Drain was sent by Champlain Township to affected landowners by mail on a USB key because it is hundreds of pages long. Golding said she never received it.

“We didn’t get anything,” she remarked.

Repairs to the drain passing by Golding and McCulloch’s property will cost them about $700. Riopel noted he will personally have to pay about $16,000 for his share, which passes by a larger, agricultural property.

Riopel assured McCulloch the roots of any trees which have to be cut will be preserved so they may grow back.

Leroux apologized to McCulloch and Golding for the misunderstanding involving the initial, unannounced visit by drain workers. He told them he’s committed to respecting landowner concerns and answering their questions.

“I want to get something positive out of it,” Leroux said.

He promised to notify McCulloch and Golding before the workers arrive next time to begin the job.

In some areas along the drain, the vegetation is being “razored,” down to a six-inch height, rather than being completely removed, and efforts will always be made to keep trees intact. Leroux explained they are also working with a landscaping company to ensure properties are left with an acceptable appearance.

Leroux noted that if the drain is left unmaintained for too long, fallen trees can accumulate in the stream, causing the water to rise and divert, leading to more erosion on the banks.

McCulloch and Golding were pleased with the outcome of their meeting with Leroux and Riopel. McCulloch is pleased the area will not be clear-cut.

“That’s a relief,” he said.

“It’s much better now that we know the truth,” said Golding.