Lesser Slave River News

Community news updates from the MD

Smith Bridge More or Less Standing on Three Legs

The Smith Bridge is as picturesque as ever, but not as stable as it should be, according to an engineer’s assessment. The MD wants it replaced, but the Province is dragging its feet.


Original article written by Joe McWilliams for the Lakeside Leader.

The MD of Lesser Slave River is upping its game when it comes to advocacy for a new bridge over the Athabasca River at Smith. Apparently Council has concluded it needs help, and administration has been at work seeking the services of a professional lobbyist. Council was asked last week to approve a $60,000 expenditure for the services of the outfit, which is called Alberta Counsel.

What’s worrying MD officials is a recent engineer’s assessment of the bridge, which came to the ominous conclusion that “one of the piers supporting the bridge is failing, due to the lack of required material coverage at the bottom of the river itself.”

What that amounts to, MD special projects manager John McDermott told council, is that the bridge is supporting that pier, rather than the other way around!

Given that situation the MD isn’t happy at all about the government’s recent deferral of the replacement deadline for the bridge for a further 10 years, to 2033. This was after (according to the written report in council’s Aug. 24 agenda package) previously putting it off 10 years from its originally scheduled 2013 replacement year.

Safety is one consideration; another one council has to wrestle with is what happens to the community if the bridge has to be taken out of service for any length of time.

Councillor Darren Fulmore suggested a “two-pronged” lobbying approach might be best; encouraging the province to fix the defective pier at the same time as urging action on bridge replacement.

Council seemed generally in favour of spending the money to retain the lobbying firm.

“I’m happy to see this,” said reeve Murray Kerik. “Ever since I’ve been here we’ve talked about it.”

Councillor Sandra Melzer was even more emphatic.

“We need to get attention and we’re not doing it ourselves,” she said. “We need to move this along.”

Agreed, said councillor Norm Seatter.

“We need to put a full court press on the government,” he said. “I think this is money well spent.”

Councillor Brad Pearson wanted to know about bang for MD buck.

“What are we expecting out of these people?” he asked.

Deliverables are in the contract, Pearson was told, but a copy of it was not handy for him to review. He wanted to see those details before voting on the matter, so it was deferred until later in the meeting. Council eventually approved the $60,000, which retains the firm for a year, at the rate of $5,000 per month, plus expenses.

lberta Counsel is an Edmonton-based firm that bills itself as being comprised of “lawyers and lobbyists.” Its website blurb says it is “a multi-partisan firm with deep roots in Alberta, specializing in government relations on a provincial and municipal level.”

The bridge is an M.D. responsibility, having been turned over by the province – along with the Old Smith Highway – to the newly-established M.D. back in the mid-1990s. However, the M.D. can’t afford to pay for a new bridge, so it must wait for provincial funding.


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