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PC MLA calls for halt of highway construction to investigate impact of Saturday’s storm

Heavy rains created runoff at the construction site of a highway realignment in Clyde River on Saturday. A video showing the runoff generated thousands of views and plenty of comments.
Heavy rains created runoff at the construction site of a highway realignment in Clyde River on Saturday. A video showing the runoff generated thousands of views and plenty of comments. - Mitch MacDonald

CLYDE RIVER - A rainstorm on the weekend that caused heavy precipitation in P.E.I. also brought some debate over the environmental effects of a highway realignment project.

A video showing runoff from the construction site going down into the Clyde River during the storm generated thousands of views on social media.

Borden-Kinkora MLA Jamie Fox shared the video on his Facebook and Twitter.

He said he was given the video from someone who noticed the river had turned completely red during the storm.

“(I was) disgusted,” said Fox, adding others who have seen the video have shared similar sentiments. “They’re upset. There are farmers weighing into it saying ‘we’re always the bad guys but nobody goes after these guys’.”

Fox also called for a halt of construction until the incident was investigated.

“This project should be stopped immediately to ensure no damage is done to the environment,” said Fox, who added that he spoke with Environment Minister Richard Brown at a function that evening. “His comment was ‘we’re looking at it’.”

The Guardian reached out to both the provincial department of transportation, infrastructure and energy and the department of communities, land and environment for comment.

A statement from the province said, in anticipation of the heavy rain, late last week staff had installed a sediment trap, secured a silt fence and bermed approach roads to the river.

“Staff were on-site throughout the day Saturday and noted the environmental controls were working to reduce the sediment,” said the statement, adding that samples were also taken to monitor. “We will evaluate the results and take additional action if needed.”

Fox said more preparation should have been done to prepare for the storm.

“We have one of the largest construction projects on the Island… I did not see one sign of due diligence by the company to prevent this,” he said. “I think the department is turning a blind eye.”

Daryl Guignion, technical advisor for Central Queens Wildlife Federation, said while he had not seen the video he heard concerns of the amount of sediment making its way to the river.

Guignion said he had to take some of the responsibility because work being done to improve the river likely contributed to Saturday’s runoff.

The province has been working with local watersheds to re-route the river and create deeper pools to help restore the area’s fish population.

“That probably contributed to some of the sediment to the river. You could say they should have lined the whole thing with grass, but it would have been a formidable chore because it’s so steep,” said Guignion, who described Saturday’s incident as ‘a little bit of pain for future gain.’ “It’s one of those things, perhaps it’s a bit of harm initially but an enormous amount of gain in years down the road.”

Guignion said the improvements are to help combat the “enormous” quantities of sediment that have come down the river in the past number of years which have caused fish populations to decline.

“We not only expect to see an increase of fish species but we also want to see a very renewed buffer zone with all kinds of trees planted and a reduction in the amount of silt coming down,” he said. “Right now, at low tide, you can’t even float a canoe from the (Clyde River) down to the West River… there’s no channel there, it’s filled in all the way.”

Saturday saw most areas of P.E.I. receive at least 50 mm of rain, with preliminary numbers from Environment Canada recording 132 mm in Borden.

The rainstorm also caused several roads in Charlottetown to be barricaded due to flooding. A spokesperson with the province’s department of transportation said they had not received any reports of damage or closures on provincial roads.

Rainfall amounts for P.E.I. Saturday (preliminary numbers provided by Environment Canada)
Maple Plains — 73 mm
St. Peter’s Bay — 64 mm
Harrington — 61 mm
Charlottetown Airport — 53 mm
Stanhope — 53 mm
Summerside — 38 mm
Souris — 64 mm
Naufrage — 56 mm
Elm Wood — 54 mm
Borden — 132 mm

Mitch.macdonald@theguardian.pe.ca
Twitter.com/Mitch_PEI

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