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Turtle Species Threatened
September 16, 2006
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The power imbalance between NWPA and SARA is outdated and should be corrected.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.