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ACTION ALERT: Protect the Wakefield aquifer and trees from the Highway 5 expansion

Protesters stand along the route the construction crews will be coming through and clear cutting near Brown Lake. Julie Oliver/ Ottawa Citizen.

Protesters stand along the route the construction crews will be coming through and clear cutting near Brown Lake. Julie Oliver/ Ottawa Citizen.

About 40 people from the group A5X were on Brown Lake Road in Wakefield, Quebec today to protest the four-lane expansion of Highway 5. They were able to turn away Couillard Construction which yesterday had begun cutting some of the forest on the eastern boundary of Gatineau Park to build access roads for the heavier logging equipment.

In order to impede the cutting today, the group had people both on the ground blocking the access road and high up in several of the trees that are to be cut down. The Ministry of Transportation Quebec (MTQ) has ordered the people off the site and an injunction against them is expected tomorrow.

A number of people are on site now and are camping there overnight (it is now -2 Celsius) to prevent the construction company from resuming their work overnight or early in the morning.

The group is trying to stop the clearing of more than 88 hectares of mature forest, including a 300 year old white pine tree, the blasting of Brown Lake Mountain, and have raised concerns about the impact of the highway construction on the aquifer, local wells, and the popular Wakefield spring. A preliminary assessment by Transport Canada had found that the project could contaminate the aquifer. The 25-year old provincial environmental assessment permitting the highway did not examine possible hydrological impacts.

The group is asking Quebec premier Jean Charest to intervene. They are requesting that no preparation work start in the Wakefield area until all work on the highway is completed kilometres away on the Chelsea section of the extension. They are not completely opposing the highway, but rather are asking that the construction plan be modified to lessen the ecological impacts.

To assist those camping overnight in the cold, please send a message to Quebec Premier Jean Charest now here. The message can be as simple as: “Please intervene immediately to stop the construction of the La Pêche section of the Highway 5 expansion. This would allow for a review of the ecological consequences of the project and for the development of alternate plans that would lessen its impact on the landscape and ensure that the water sources there are protected.”

The Ottawa Citizen has reported, “The cutting is under a tight deadline: It has to stop in early spring under environmental rules, so that trees won’t come down when baby birds are in nests.”

The Council of Canadians has been following this issue since May 2010. On February 20, 2011, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow spoke against the environmental destruction that would be caused by the highway and supported the “water warriors” raising concerns about it at a public event in Wakefield.

For more information from the A5X group, please see–nouvelles.html.