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Decade anniversary brings forward push for bridge replacement in rural New Brunswick

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Ten years have now passed, but Donna Black remembers the 2014 flood like it was yesterday.

“When this happened my husband and I and our children, we waded in water up to this with hip waders on into our neighbours farm, saving his cattle,” she said, gesturing to chest level.

“They were all tied up in his barn and without that he would have lost his whole herd of cattle.”

A decade later, the damage is still evident from the flood in the rural New Brunswick community.

All that remains of the washed away Cherryvale Covered Bridge is a large gap separating the small community into two.

Butternut Valley Mayor Alan Brown describes it as three things: an inconvenience, a safety hazard and he says it’s limiting growth in the area.

“Coles Island Fire Department can’t get here anywhere near the time that Havelock can, but it’s under the Cole’s Island area,” he said.

“Economic development has left this area. When the highway passed Sussex and they put the new Trans-Canada in, a lot of business that was in this area left and closed down and it would have been nice to see it come back, but until we get a reliable crossing that’s not going to happen.”

The shortest route now for residents to use is the McDonald Road, but it’s a dirt road at grade level, and the mayor says it’s often closed due to weather or road conditions.

Brown says they had a pre-feasibility study done on Exit 365, which is where you come into Butternut Valley off the Trans Canada Highway. One of the things that came out of it was the lack of a direct reliable crossing over the Canaan River.

“If you live on this side of the Canaan river and you want to go to Fredericton, you’re heading to Havelock and going on the Trans Canada in Havelock and coming back so that’s 40 minutes anyways probably more just on wasted travel because you can’t get across the river if the McDonald road is out,” he said.

While a small community overall, Black says it’s growing and residents deserve the same access to emergency services as everyone else.

“Any EMOs cannot reach us like when it floods the way it flooded back in 2014,” she said.

“When we flood, we are absolutely 100 per cent on an island. We cannot get out any other way than by boat or by helicopter.”

The MLA for the area, Ross Wetmore says it’s been a long process to be replaced.

“The Cherryvale Covered Bridge fell under the disaster financial assistance program, so we should have been able to get up to 90 per cent of the replacement funding for that bridge if the Department of Transportation had of put it in their program,” he said.

Adding, “Unfortunately the Disaster Financial Assistance Program for that project is closed and so that funding is not available anymore. I think that probably to build a new covered bridge there would probably be now a days close to a $2 million project.”

At this point, Black and Brown says any type of bridge would do as long as one was put in.

The New Brunswick Department of Transportation and Infrastructure said in an email to CTV News Monday morning there are currently no plans to replace the bridge.

In part, the statement read: “Following the bridge washout in 2014, work was done to repair and maintain the adjacent single-lane MacDonald Road bridge as a point of crossing over the Canaan River. DTI is currently undertaking a planning exercise to determine if any improvements are required on the existing road network.”

The statement adds a bridge is also available on Route 112 for people to cross the Canaan River. 

“Certainly I’d work with the community, but I’ve been working on it for 10 years, it’s been quite a slug,” said Wetmore.

As for the community, they say it’s time for the province to fix what they’ve left broken.

“The roads in Butternut Valley, any provincial road in a rural municipality is still the provinces,” said Brown.

“We don’t actually have any roads that are under our jurisdiction. We don’t look after any of that so really it’s on them to fix this.”

As for Black, she says it’s a waiting game they never expected to still be apart of.

“This many years later the only thing that has saved us is we haven’t had a lot of rain, we haven’t had a lot of snow and ice. Those are the things that saved us here or we’d be right in the same shape again,” she said.

“One of these days, we’re going to be on an island again.”

For more New Brunswick news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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