Owen Sound wants to have all hands on deck in its fight to have the federally owned harbour in the city dredged.
The city has long been lobbying Transport Canada to do the underwater excavation work at the port and Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound Conservative MP Larry Miller vowed in 2011 to pressure his government to see that it happens as soon as possible.
City/county Coun. Arlene Wright said she recently brought the dredging issue to Grey County’s corporate services committee. County officials, in turn, have requested a meeting with Ontario Transportation Minister Bob Chiarelli to get the province on side as well.
“The agricultural industry is in need of that port,” Wright said Wednesday in an interview. “We have got to get that harbour dredged.”
The county is still waiting to hear back from the province on its request to meet with Chiarelli at the upcoming Ontario Good Roads Association conference, which is scheduled for Feb. 24-27 in Toronto.
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Wright said she has heard of at least one Grey County farmer who has had to ship his grain from another southern Ontario port because of water levels at the Owen Sound Harbour.
Area farmers rely on the port to export corn, grain and other crops, she said.
“It’s very important to the county,” Wright said.
A spokesman for Parrish & Heimbecker Ltd., owner of Owen Sound’s waterfront grain elevator, said in 2011 that delivering and retrieving cargo at the port facility will likely have to cease in two to three years if the harbour is not dredged.
Grey County Warden Duncan McKinlay said the Owen Sound Harbour is “linked to economic development across the county.”
He said it’s important for the county to add its voice to the chorus calling for the work to be done.
“We’ll just do our little part to raise awareness,” he said in an interview. “We’ll just be another one of the players sitting at the table.”
McKinlay said he is concerned about water levels throughout the Great Lakes, noting “Owen Sound is not the only shallow spot.”
Owen Sound Mayor Deb Haswell recently suggested at a council meeting that the city plans to turn up the pressure on Transport Canada to dredge the harbour.
She said the port must be dredged to a commercial navigation depth immediately or by 2014 at the latest.
City officials have said the work must be done before Owen Sound would assume ownership of the port.
Transport Canada has said that all dredging work must be part of divestiture negotiations.