Port Lands project reaches milestone with removal of ‘West Plug’ opening Don River to Lake Ontario

Ontario Construction News staff writer

Waterfront Toronto reached a significant milestone in the Port Lands Flood Protection (PLFP) project Monday with the successful removal of the “west plug,” a concrete wall that was separating the new mouth of the Don River from Lake Ontario.

EllisDon Civil Ltd. is providing construction management services for Port Lands Flood Protection and Enabling Infrastructure (PLFPEI) project, a seven-year, $1.25-billion effort to protect Toronto’s southeastern downtown from flooding and unlock the potential for new housing and employment areas in the Port Lands.

Construction management services include:

  • Excavating a new mouth for the Don River in Toronto’s Port Lands area
  • Constructing major municipal infrastructure
  • Constructing significant parkland and natural greenspace

The area, equivalent to the size of downtown Toronto, is poised for transformation into new mixed-use communities, global destinations, and more water access for locals and visitors. As part of the design for flood protection, Waterfront Toronto has constructed a kilometre-long extension of the Don River.

“The Port Lands flood protection project is one of the largest civil engineering projects currently underway in North America,” George Zegarac, Waterfront Ontario’s president and CEO, said in a statement.

In Toronto, it’s unlike anything attempted before.

“Despite global challenges, we have stayed the course, keeping us on track to open the new parks and river in 2025. Today’s latest milestone brings us one step closer to reconnecting the new river to the lake.”

The West Plug, located at the mouth of the Don River under the Cherry Street South bridge, has been separating the new river from Lake Ontario. Its removal is the first step in allowing the renaturalized Don River to flow freely into Lake Ontario, representing a significant environmental and engineering accomplishment.

Following the removal of the West Plug, the next step is to remove the North Plug at the Keating Channel, further connecting the Don River to Lake Ontario.

Construction will also continue on new parks set to open in 2025.

The Port Lands Flood Protection project is creating a renaturalized mouth for the Don River, new roads and bridges, cycling connections and greenspace, as well as new infrastructure to support future urban growth. The project is funded by the governments of Canada, Ontario, and the City of Toronto. Construction began in 2018 and the new parks and river will be open in 2025.

A new island community will eventually be built on foundations created by Port Lands Flood Protection, helping downtown Toronto to grow sustainably, and addressing a growing housing need in the city.

“Villiers Island,” will have new cycling and walking trails and dedicated space for transit, community amenities like a library and school, local parks and the city’s only urban river walk along the Keating Channel. It will also be home to the Lassonde Art Trail, a free outdoor museum. As the island develops once flood protection is in place, new attractions will make this a landmark waterfront destination.


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