A portion of city’s trail system will be closed temporarily

A section of Red Deer’s popular trail system could experience a blockage this summer, with the disruption continuing for an estimated 18 months.

A cyclist rides the pathway between the City of Red Deer’s water treatment plant and its Red Deer River intake Monday. Expansion of the plant and its intake will close the pathway for more than a year.

A cyclist rides the pathway between the City of Red Deer’s water treatment plant and its Red Deer River intake Monday. Expansion of the plant and its intake will close the pathway for more than a year.

A section of Red Deer’s popular trail system could experience a blockage this summer, with the disruption continuing for an estimated 18 months.

The city plans to expand the low-lift pump building and construct a new raw water intake near its water treatment plant at 5408 54th Ave.

That work will result in the temporary closure of the bike and pedestrian trail that runs by the plant on the south side of the river.

“We’re hoping to start construction this summer but there are some things that could impede that,” said Janet Whitesell, an environmental planning engineer with the city’s Environmental Services Department.

That includes regulatory approvals from the likes of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Depending on the terms specified, as well as the results of the tendering process now underway, timelines could be affected, she said.

“There’s a slight chance that we might not start it this year.”

Otherwise, said Whitesell, work could commence by late August or early September.

That would likely block trail traffic through the area for the balance of this year and all of 2010.

“I think we’re sitting at about an 18-month construction period, so it would be a considerable length of time,” said Whitesell, adding that replacement of the trail would likely be one of the final phases.

On Monday, Red Deer’s municipal planning commission gave site development approval for the project, including trail relocation and landscaping.

It heard that the expansion and addition are necessary to improve operations at the water intake facilities. The existing intake doesn’t satisfy current requirements, explained Whitesell.

In addition to the trail closure, the project will result in some vegetation along the river being removed to accommodate the new intake.

Whitesell said the city plans to publicize its plans and the impact on the trail once details are finalized. “We are going to have at least one information meeting once the construction schedule is set.”

The budget for the water intake project was earlier estimated at $20 million. An application by the city for money under the federal Building Canada Fund to cover a portion of this cost was recently rejected.

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com