| May 05, 2005

Feature article,May 5, 2005

Feature article May 5, 2005

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Muddying the Mitchell Creek waters

by Jeff Green

Three people appeared before South Frontenac Council this week, urging the township to stick to its guns and insist on a simple repair to the Mitchell Creek bridge rather than cede to the wishes of the Federal Department of Transportation and build a larger 1.5 metre high bridge.

While the Council listened to the presentations, Public Works manager Steve Archibald responded for the township by saying I would like to coordinate a group of concerned citizens to deal with mitigation [of the effects of building the higher bridge], which the township has already been moving towards.

While two of the three presenters did talk about mitigation as a last resort, all three exhorted the township to bring the Department of Transportation to heel, and force them to justify their refusal to allow the bridge to remain basically as it is, a one lane bridge that is only high enough for canoes or small boats to pass under.


Lori Gordon spoke on behalf of the Friends of the Mitchell Creek. She outlined a litany of concerns, including the danger and inconvenience the two-month road closing will bring to residents on the far side of the bridge, and the threats to species, notably loons that could come with larger, faster boats on the creek,. As well, she talked of the safety concerns posed by increased driving speeds over a two lane bridge, and of the fact that the footings for the new bridge might eliminate the Mitchell Creek Canoe Launch, which is how campers access some campsites in the adjacent Frontenac Park.

Robert Lovelace then spoke as a representative of the Family Heads Council from the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation. He said that Mitchell Creek was important to Algonquin peoples because it is unspoiled land, land that contains evidence of occupation by Algonquin peoples going back 2,000 years, and we seek to work with our neighbours to maintain the integrity of this territory. He said there are some plants that are important to Algonquin medicines in Mitchell Creek and in the lakes that it leads to, and said the Federal government is forcing what he called incremental development on South Frontenac Council, which is what happened to the Algonquin people 160 years ago, with devastating impact on them.

He then said, You are being indianized by the Federal Government, and urged Council to resist.

Finally Ross Sutherland addressed Council. He brought their attention to section 10 of the Navigable Waterways Protection Act, the very Act being cited by Transport Canada in their insistence that access to the Mitchell Creek waterway be improved with a new bridge.

Section 10. (1) of the Act reads Any lawful work may be rebuilt or repaired if, in the opinion of the Minister, interference with navigation is not increased by the rebuilding or repairing.

It is time to insist that Transportation Canada send a representative to a public meeting to explain why this section of the Act does not apply. It seems to justify repairing the bridge exactly as it is, which would maintain navigation exactly as it is now.

Sutherland exhorted the township to go slow, and said the cost of waiting would not increase the cost of the project in any substantial way.

On this point Public Works Manager Archibald disagreed, pointing out that Timing is a concern. If we dont repair the bridge this fall, it might mean further weight restrictions on the bridge, perhaps meaning limiting use to cars and light trucks. This would be a health and safety concern if ambulance and fire vehicles had to detour around the bridge.

The township has completed an environmental assessment, and plans for commencing construction of a 1.5 metre steel arch culvert in line with Ministry of Transportation demands on September 4 is considered the preferred option at this point. The public has 30 days, from April 30, to request a further environmental impact study from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment on the proposed construction project.

Before the issue was laid aside for Council to proceed with its agenda, Deputy Mayor Hahn told the assembled supporters of the Mitchell Creek activists that he would be presenting a notion of motion later in the meeting, informing Council of his intention to ask them to request a visit from a Transport Canada official to explain to Council and the public why the Mitchell Creek Bridge must be made bigger and not simply repaired.

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