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News Release

Turtle Species Threatened
by Bridge Reconstruction

September 16, 2006

A ruling by Transport Canada that will decide the fate of a small bridge over a small creek in Eastern Ontario, north of Kingston, may demonstrate the ineffectiveness of Environment Canada's Species at Risk Act (SARA). Two species of turtle listed under SARA currently use the existing bridge site for access to egg laying areas: the stinkpot, listed as Threatened, and the map turtle, listed as a Species of Special Concern.

Despite frequent appeals from local residents and environmentalists, the Navigable Waters Protection office of Transport Canada is insisting that a higher bridge be built to replace the existing low, one-lane structure over Mitchell Creek in South Frontenac Township, in order to allow greater boat traffic between the two lakes the creek connects, Desert Lake and Birch Lake. Rebuilding the bridge to Transport Canada specifications would require extensive in-water work to replace the concrete footings. This would damage or eliminate healthy habitat for these two species which have been observed as thriving at this site. The township had originally requested that the exiting footings be retained and only the span replaced, requiring no in-water disruption and alteration of the streambed. This position has had the widespread support of the local community.

SARA makes it an offence in sections 32 and 33 to damage or destroy the residence of listed endangered or threatened species. Yet in order to facilitate boat traffic through this small creek, the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA) may be allowed to take precedence over environmental concerns. This small bridge exposes a large issue. In the interests of promoting commerce, it is Transport Canada, not Environment Canada, which unaccountably has jurisdiction over waters that are deemed to be navigable, even if environmental damage is the result.

Interestingly, Mitchell Creek has two commercial uses: as a fishing destination for local resorts and as a popular wilderness destination to nearby Frontenac Provincial Park, a tourist industry supported by local canoe outfitters. The only launching site for canoes at this location will be eliminated if a higher, wider bridge is built, thereby effectively eliminating one commercial use in order to expand another. As well, the higher bridge could have a detrimental effect on the downstream wetland since it would allow power boat access at all times, including the nesting season. At present, power boats cannot pass under the bridge until the water level drops in mid-June

The power imbalance between NWPA and SARA is outdated and should be corrected. SARA has no meaning if it can be overridden by the largely antiquated prerogatives of another act intended only to protect the commercial use of waterways.

For further information contact:
Elaine Farragher
Kingston Field Naturalists
E-mail: efarragher 'at' sources.com

Monique Mousseau
Regional Manager, Environment and Engineering,
Transport Canada,
4900 Yonge Street, Suite 300
North York, ON M2N 6A5
Telephone: (416) 952-0485
E-mail: MOUSSEM@tc.gc.ca


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