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NEWS: Does the Highway 5 extension threaten the Wakefield spring?

In August 2009, Prime Minister Stephen Harper stated, “The extension of Highway 5, the largest infrastructure project in the Outaouais, will help the region’s economic development, create high-paying jobs and greatly enhance the quality of life and safety of residents of the Outaouais region.”

Funded in part by federal stimulus dollars, the project involves building a four-lane divided highway from Chemin de la Riviere to the existing part of the highway in Wakefield.

Nikki Mantell, the editor of The Low Down, a local newspaper, asks, “Will this highway extension ruin the aquifer that feeds the Wakefield spring?”

She writes, “The Wakefield spring is the closest thing the region has to holy water – people revere it, cherish it, talk about it to their city friends, their city friends come to Wakefield just to get a taste. It’s natural, clean, cold, delicious and free. It’s a valued necessity to residents, cottagers and visitors. Rich or poor, newbie or long-time local; the spring’s value cuts across boundaries. To run it would be an unforgivable act.”

Jean-Francois Roy, an engineer associated with Cima+ and Tecsult Inc., told concerned residents at a recent information session that hydrology studies are underway to investigate any impact on Wakefield’s water supply, but no date for the completion of the study was given.

“(Villagers) at the meeting asked for assurances the highway would not be built until the hydrology studies and the federal environmental impact study are completed. Roy assured them that the highway cannot be built until until provincial and federal officials authorize everything, and nothing can be authorized until the studies are completed.”

We will be looking for those studies which should be made available on the La Peche municipality’s website before any further construction proceeds. Information from the municipality and about the federal environmental assessment of this highway construction can be found at http://www.villelapeche.qc.ca/index.php/en/la-peche/projects/extension-higway-5.

The local newspaper notes, “The letter-writing campaign to various levels of government has already begun.” We would suggest that you contact area MP Lawrence Cannon, also the minister of foreign affairs, for a guarantee that the aquifer and the spring will not be endangered by the highway. He can be reached at Cannon.L@parl.gc.ca.

But time is short. Work on an initial 2.5 kilometre portion of the highway began in 2010. “Work on Phase 2, which extends 6.5 kilometres from Meech Creek to Wakefield is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2011. Phase 3 will extend Hwy 5 one kilometre north of Wakefield.”

To read more, please go to http://lowdownonline.com/2010/05/wakefield-quebec-residents-learn-no-more-consultations-for-a-5-extension/ and http://lowdownonline.com/2010/05/remember-the-killer-highway/.