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NEWS: Wakefield highway could be a ‘complete-go’ by late-November

Aerial image of the destruction of the highway project to date published in The Low Down.

The Council of Canadians has raised concerns over the past year and a half that the Valley Drive Spring, a popular water source in Wakefield, Quebec, could be contaminated by the extension of Highway 5. The West Quebec Post has reported, “A federal assessment (which approved the extension) acknowledged (that no one knows the exact source of all the spring water and) did not require public consultation. …The 1986 Quebec consultation did not look at hydrology.” CBC has reported, “Transport Canada performed a preliminary assessment and determined that the project – which would involve lopping off a nearby hilltop – could contaminate the aquifer.”

“SOS Wakefield is asking Pierre Arcand, Quebec’s Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks, to order a new environmental assessment for the proposed expansion of Highway A-5 from Chelsea to Wakefield. The group is not necessarily opposing the extension but insists that an assessment be undertaken to ensure the construction will not interfere with the flow of the spring.” Despite this, construction on phase two of the project, a 6.5 kilometre section of the highway from Chelsea to Wakefield, began this past February-March. As evident from the aerial photo in the Sept. 21 edition of The Low Down newspaper, a great deal of damage has already been done by the highway construction.

In late-September The Low Down reported, “Development for phase two of the project (La Peche Sector) has still yet to be approved by the province’s environment ministry, but the final piece of paperwork – a certificate of construction (CAC) for La Peche – should be obtained by the end of November, according to Quebec’s Ministry of Transport (MTQ). While the CAC hinges on mitigation measures ensuring the protection of Wakefield’s water supply, namely the Wakefield spring, the MTQ is confident the environmental approval will be granted. ‘There is no reason to believe that (Arcand) will not grant a construction certificate, because we have all the authorizations in place’, said MTQ spokesperson Stephanie Lemieux… If the CAC is not rejected, the full highway plan could be a complete go by the end of November.”

“In the meantime though, Save Our Spring (SOS) continues to push for a more comprehensive environmental impact study before anything in La Peche is approved. The organization finally has a meeting with the MTQ to express its concerns about the possible threat the highway poses to the Wakefield spring – a meeting that SOS has been trying to schedule for over a year.”

The Council of Canadians helps to defend the Wakefield spring:

September 17: Council of Canadians water campaigner Meera Karunananthan spoke at a rally and march in Wakefield. The Low Down reported, “The march – a street theatre parade – brought (more than 100 people) together to celebrate water and sustainable development… The theatre parade, with its series of large blue banners fluttering in the air along Valley Drive to symbolize a massive collective wave, was also a way to raise awareness of the potential threat the development of Hwy 5 extension poses on the spring, a source of drinking water for a significant number of people. …The Council of Canadians, which has been following the water concerns closely, was on hand to lend its support to SOS Wakefield. ‘It is now time for Quebec and Canada to stand up and do what’s right and follow suit and recognize water as a human right’, said Council of Canadians national water Meera Karunananthan, referring to the United Nations’ stand. ‘It’s nice to have principles, but communities need tools to fight back when governments decide to violate these principles’.” Meera’s blogs on this march are at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=10571 and http://canadians.org/blog/?p=10528.

February 20: Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow spoke at a campaign fundraiser at the popular Black Sheep Inn, packed-full with more than 150 people (including staff members Emma Lui, Jan Malek, and Melissa Dick, as well as several Ottawa chapter activists). The West Quebec Post reported, “In her remarks, Barlow addressed the Wakefield Spring struggle as part of a larger fight for ‘global water justice’. ‘You’, she told the audience, ‘are stewards of the water, water warriors’.” The newspaper adds, “She spoke of the successful struggle in Simcoe County to prevent establishment of a dump site above pristine ground water. As part of local opposition, (First Nations) women set up in a farmer’s field near the site and moved to block heavy equipment coming to prepare the ground for the dump. ‘I don’t suggest that you do that,’ she said. ‘But’, she added after a pause and with a twinkle in her eye, ‘if you do I’ll be there to join you’.” More on this at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=5599.

January 6: Council of Canadians Ontario-Quebec organizer Mark Calzavara spoke at a SOS Wakefield media conference. He said, “The poorly conceived expansion of nearby Highway A-5, is a project that will carve away a mountain top, flatten a few thousand trees before paving a pair of massive ‘traffic circles’ across the suspected recharge zone of the spring itself.” To read Mark’s blog, go to http://canadians.org/blog/?p=9097.

For campaign blogs dating back to May 2010, go to http://canadians.org/blog/?s=wakefield.