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Placentia lift bridge part to arrive this week

This version of the Sir Ambrose Shea Lift Bridge was built two years ago to replace an earlier aged structure.
This version of the Sir Ambrose Shea Lift Bridge was built two years ago to replace an earlier aged structure. - Glen Whiffen

Placentia bridge has been operating with aid of solar power since June 5

Fishermen on the wharf at Jerseyside in Placentia still shake their heads at how the trolls of mechanical malfunction had hit the two-year-old, $50-million lift bridge and caused them such a headache during this spring’s crab fishery.

Most have their crab quota is caught by now, just as a new replacement cable reel is expected to arrive on Wednesday and, when installed, get the lift bridge back to its normal operating status.

The Sir Ambrose Shea Lift Bridge has effectively been operating regularly since June 5, however, due to some ingenuity of the Department of Transportation and Works with the installation of solar panels.

“There are two temporary solar panel systems installed on the lift bridge,” a statement from the department says.

“One system powers the inclinometer, while the second supplies power to some of the lights on the bridge. The first solar panel system was installed on May 12, while the second was installed at the end of May. The inclinometer is a sensor that is important during the lifting and lowering of the bridge. This new system is an alternate way of providing power to the inclinometer and lighting. The system stores power and hence is not limited by nightfall or other times of low sunlight.”

A few fishermen gathered on a recent Sunday morning answer with a polite “no” when asked for an interview.

They do, however, point to various boats tied up around the wharf, showing what part of each boat had to be removed to allow it to squeeze under the bridge in its lowered position at low tide in the days and weeks after the malfunction occurred.

Some had to detach masts and other equipment, some had to back their boats under the bridge to protect the vessel’s exhaust. In every passing, it was a tricky manoeuvre given the current is always swift through the neck.

One fisherman had to ask the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for a permit to use a smaller boat because his wouldn’t fit under the bridge.

Fisherman Calvin Kerrivan told The Telegram earlier he had to tie up his 50-foot boat at Fox Harbour, about 16 or more kilometres away. That made it difficult to go about his work, particularly when changing over fishing gear, when moving from one fishery to another.

Kerrivan said fishermen couldn’t understand why it took a month to get the new cable reel delivered.

The lift bridge was officially opened in 2016, replacing an aging bridge that was a source of frequent frustration for residents of the Placentia area due to repeated malfunctions. It’s the primary link between Jerseyside and Placentia, and is needed to allow fishing boats and other vessels to come into the harbour.

Placentia Mayor Bernard Power has said the same problem has occurred two years in a row, at the start of the fishing season.

He has asked the department to investigate whether there’s a flaw in the design of the bridge.

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