Water bus option pitched on South Saskatchewan River

A man who studies hydraulic engineering in his spare time says the City of Saskatoon should consider expanding transit off of land and onto an undervalued thoroughfare.

Paul Van Pul is pitching the idea of water buses for public transportation along the South Saskatchewan River. He explained one of his pet projects during a lecture at the University of Saskatchewan on Feb. 14.

“We would have the park-and-rides by the boat bridges or maybe even by the new (Chief Mistawasis Bridge) that was opened up in the north of the city. A park-and-ride for the people that come from outside the city. And then a couple of stops in the city, like by River Heights. Of course, at the university for the students,” he said.

“It’s a lot more relaxing and that’s what we see when you talk with people that in cities that have a water bus. They like it because it’s so quiet, it’s relaxing and going to work, coming from work, you want to relax and that’s what you don’t get on the road.”

A new hydropower station has been proposed at the existing Saskatoon weir to generate 5.5 to 6.1 megawatts of clean power. Saskatoon Light & Power has been studying the potential for the system since 2009.

“For the moment, there aren’t many plans by the city except for the hydropower proposal because the city is not, I think, that interested in the river … nobody looks at the river itself,” Van Pul said.

“The river is considered by in the minds of the people in Saskatoon, I think, as an obstacle. And so the only solution to the obstacle is building more bridges across it. No. We have to look at the river itself too and what the possibilities of the river are. … We use it, but we could do better.”

The now-retired land surveyor said he’s taken it upon himself to research the history of hydraulic engineering for roughly the past 30 years. Van Pul added he’s made his case to the city on a number of occasions in the past decade.

“My problem, though, is that (the city) sees more of an advantage in a hydropower proposal. And that’s where I’m scared of the whole thing. Because of the moment they decide they want to build the hydropower station on the weir then we’re stuck for the next hundred years,” he said.

“I think if we look at one project, there should be an alternative. That the citizens of Saskatoon should have the possibility of looking at … let the citizens decide.”

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