Warning residents about dangers of Lessard Bridge

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Regardless of warning, residents continue to use the bridge

The MD of Bonnyville has made it clear the Lessard Bridge is closed until further notice, but residents don’t seem to be listening.

Due to ice flows, four of the six piles at Lessard Bridge have been damaged, a problem director of transportation and utilities Darcy Zelisko thinks could take longer to fix than they had hoped.

“Unfortunately, we’re not sure if the Lessard Bridge is going to be as easy as we were hoping,” he expressed. “We have went to engineering, and the preliminary engineering estimates I have received are approximately $900,000 for repair, and then essentially another $150,000 for engineering costs.”

Zelisko has been looking into whether the project falls under any provincial grant funding, and has even gone so far as to reach out to province.

He described the bridge as one of the MD’s “main structures,” and is hoping that will be enough to convince the Alberta government to offer financial support.

While they wait to hear back from the province, Zelisko is requesting the MD foot the bill.

“We might require the MD to go at it alone so we can get it repaired,” he said.

Because of all of the players involved due to the scope of the fix, such as Alberta Environment and Fisheries and Oceans, the project may not be underway until the winter.

Coun. Mike Krywiak wondered if it might just be easier to replace the bridge altogether.

According to Zelisko, replacing the bridge could cost upwards of $3.5-million, which is one of the reasons why they have been considering alternatives.

In the meantime, the MD has completely closed off all access to the bridge, but regardless of their efforts, residents are still finding a way to get across.

“We have it closed, we have it signed, we have it barricaded, but we do still have members of the public going around the signs and barricades,” Zelisko described.

He added, because their wood barricades and signage wasn’t enough, they have decided to take it one step further.

“I gave it the green light to put up additional barriers at the bridge itself, and we have one on each end right now. We’re going to add another one on each end, so unless they have a very good vehicle that will move them out of the way, they won’t be able to drive across,” expressed Zelisko.

One concern residents have shared with MD Reeve Greg Sawchuk is having access to the area at the bottom of the bridge, which is often used as a pick-up and launch spot for canoes, kayaks, and other non-motorized boats.

“They still want access to that,” noted Sawchuk.

This isn’t something the MD has an issue with, however, they want to stress to the public the dangers of using the Lessard Bridge.

In order to get their point across, they’re playing around with the idea of posting an update on the Alberta Emergency Alert Program.

According to Caroline Palmer, director of planning and development, there are two sides to the program.

One allows for the province to issue emergency alerts to all Albertans. The other gives municipalities a chance to update residents and possible visitors to the area of a hazard or ongoing concern.

The MD is going to consider whether this issue is applicable before going forward with the suggestion.

Zelisko didn’t have a solution for council during their Wednesday,  May 9 meeting, but the update provided them with insight for when he did share the final numbers for the project.

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