By Jeff Ivany
It seems that cabin owners on the Salmonier Line will have to wait even longer to find out what the summer holds for us, with the minister of Environment and Conservation again delaying a decision on the proposed Big Triangle Pond mineral access road that will cut through the area between the Salmonier Line and the Avalon Wilderness Reserve.
The minister has now had almost three months to review the proponent’s environmental preview report, and almost two months to consider the comments received from the public.
This is in contrast to the 35 days that those of us who will be directly impacted by this proposal were given to read and understand the proposal and organize a response.
That’s 35 days in the middle of winter when few people are using their cabins and are therefore difficult to contact.
Despite that, we were able to make a submission to the minister signed by 148 concerned cabin owners and recreational users of the area. However, that is likely just a small fraction of the number who would have joined us if we’d had more time to organize our response.
Given the delays, and if the government wanted to truly engage the public as they say they do, they would have given us until the end of summer or at least the end of June to provide comment on such an important issue.
I guess our new Department of Public Engagement has a lot of work if they truly want to engage and hear from the public on important issues.
With the summer coming up, people who use this area for recreation are understandably anxious for a decision. The road and associated drilling and excavation activity will come within a few hundred metres of some cabins and will cross the footpaths, ATV trails and portage routes that cabin owners and other people use to access the area.
Family-based outdoor recreation does not mix well with intensive mineral exploration using transport trucks, excavators, drill rigs and chainsaws.
People who use this area will soon be making plans for the summer and need to know if they can access and use their properties and the surrounding areas without risking the safety of themselves and their families.
While we recognize that the department may need time to deal with the significant number of submissions they received from us and many other people and groups opposing this development, we don’t believe that a decision to reject the construction of this road should be difficult.
Many people have already pointed out significant concerns about this project, such as negative effects on the Avalon Wilderness Reserve and the Salmonier Nature Park, impacts on the recovering Avalon caribou herd and its habitat, potential impacts on the future water supply of the town of Holyrood, impacts on the two closest scheduled salmon rivers to St. John’s and impacts on cabin owners and other recreational users of the area.
More importantly, there are absolutely no public benefits, economic or other, to this project. The types of exploration activities proposed are normally done with less environmentally damaging methods of access, such as helicopter or over the snow during winter.
There is simply no need to put 11 kilometres of road through pristine forest at this stage of exploration, before any mineral deposits have been found.
This is a case of a private company wanting to take shortcuts for its own convenience.
This is precisely the type of situation the environmental assessment process is meant to identify and prevent, and we look forward to the minister’s correct application of the Environmental Protection Act in this case.
In the meantime, should the minister make a decision that does not protect the interests and safety of those of us who already use this area, we are prepared to continue to oppose this project using whatever legal means available.
If you’re concerned about this proposal and its potential social and environmental impacts and would like to join our growing group, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Minister Joan Shea at email@example.com to voice your opposition.
Jeff Ivany writes from Tobin’s Pond, Salmonier Line.