Friday, January 30, 2009

Fundy's Bayside Quarry Threatens Marine Life and Community

I remember I was sitting with my wife; first-born, Kim; and our friend Eric McCartney in a barren walk-up apartment on the island of Montreal when the Cuban Missile Crisis was developing. We watched President Kennedy's announcement and the developing drama on our little black and white TV.

As we were drawn into the enormity of a situation that we shared with everyone else in the world, we considered our options if something happened. We would be trapped with 3 million other people on an island that was undoubtedly a target for a nuclear ICBM. In no time at all, we would have no food, no money, and only a tiny old Volkswagen bug that would be no competition for the flood of vehicles and people leaving on the limited capacity bridges, assuming gas was available.

Since there were no pressing obligations at McGill University where I was a student and lab instructor, we decided to go home to Charlotte County before the crisis was fully developed. The reasons were obvious: it was exceedingly unlikely that anything but an errant missile would find us and, secondly, as I remember saying, "We won't have to worry about starving." So off we went to St. Stephen , packed like sardines into our little VW.

While we were subsequently ridiculed for our move, history shows that it was the right decision.

The point of this little personal story was that we knew that the richness of the Quoddy Region would sustain us, winter and summer. Today, it is a totally different story, assuming our new generation even knew how to harvest the wealth at our doorstep and our gun-totting wardens would allow us to harvest anything without the appropriate and costly licence. And, of course, we now have a nuclear power plant that is a magent for missiles and terorists.

When we finally came home for good in the 1960's, our precious resources had been hit hard by coastal developments particularly the mill in Woodland where an operation there was allowed , by our 3 levels of government, to dump black liquor directly into the river, killing a vital fishery in the St. Croix River Estuary and western Passamaquoddy Bay that I have valued at $10 - $20 million annually in today's dollars.

There was a new ditty then in response to the horrific smell of the river and the bubbling mudflats. "St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, St. Stephen-by-the-smell." It's not quite so applicable in recent years and we have seen encouraging signs that our marine resources could rebuild, but now a new threats are looming.

Some years ago, Jamer Materials was allowed to mine aggregate at the Bayside Port under the expressed understanding that this was to increase laydown area for the Bayside Port. None of this has occurred and the company has now announced its quarry expansion plans for a vast area across the main highway (highway 127) leading into St. Andrews around (literally) the Simpson Hill area. This is in the Chamcook watershed, the water source for the Town of St. Andrews, Atlantic Salmon Federation, Biological Station, Huntsman Marine Science Centre and other vital operations and communities.

But, they claim, all drainage will be directed back across the highway to the existing quarry site. Well, we now have underwater surveys and aerial photos that show sediments from the existing quarry operations have destroyed important scallop, lobster, and fish habitat directly offshore from the site. Expansion will only exacerbate this problem.

This is in direct contravention of Canada's Oceans Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. It's long past the time when Environment Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans should step in.

Write or email your ministers of fisheries and environment about this problem today. While you're at it, let MP Greg Thompson know that you appreciate his efforts in fighting LNG and the Quarry on behalf of his constituents.

Times are tough and we will need all of our natural resources to survive future challenges. Unless we start protecting our own assets, they will be gone and us with them.

That's my opinion anyway.