April 11, 2002

The Moncton Times and Transcript

Niles declines part in new river assessment
by Tammy Scott-Wallace

Eugene Niles is out of the picture as the first phase of the ** environmental impact assessment on the Petitcodiac River causeway takes place. The involvement of the man who penned the one report on the Petitcodiac River both provincial and federal politicians could agree on last year was deemed a necessity by people on all sides of the issue. Department of Fisheries and Oceans officials, special interest group spokespeople, scientists, and especially Moncton- Riverview-Dieppe MP Claudette Bradshaw have been singing Niles’ praises since he tabled the report that got the ball rolling on this study of the causeway’s devastation.

One of Bradshaw’s strongest recommendations, with the support of the federal government, was that Niles be involved in a lead role with the EIA. It doesn’t appear Bradshaw’s request will become reality, at least not right now. Niles didn’t return phone calls to the Times & Transcript to speak about his interest in being involved in the project, however, a provincial official said the consultant was asked to participate but declined. Perry Haines, director of project assessment for the EIA branch of the Department of Environment and Local Government, said scheduling conflicts made it impossible for Niles to play a role. “He couldn’t meet our schedule for the initial process,” Haines said, adding Niles was approached on the EIA by e-mail and during conference calls in January. “His schedule simply couldn’t match.” Niles was only asked to participate in this initial part of the EIA which saw provincial and federal players hold public meetings in both Riverview and Moncton to outline the harmonized EIA process. Members of the public have until April 19 to submit comments on the first-time harmonized approach to study impacts caused to the river by the causeway. Those comments will be reviewed and possibly added to a project description to be registered soon with Kim Jardine, Minister of the province’s Department of Environment and Local Government. “We don’t know the exact date, but it will be (registered) within weeks, not months,” Haines said. Once the project is registered and the EIA moves into further processes such as the drafting of guidelines, outlining methods, gathering more public input and the actual study, Niles may be approached again. “Certainly we haven’t made a decision on who we will ask, if anyone, for further phases,” Haines said. “If the decision is made to go with a facilitator in the future, we will consider him.” Even though Niles has been given rave reviews and the province has been pushed to hire him as a consultant, Haines insists the best person will be chosen for all jobs. “I think both the provincial and federal governments recognize what Eugene Niles can offer here,” he said. “He knows the subject and could offer continuity. We would have no problem approaching him again.” Niles was hired as a consultant by the federal government to study how fish navigate upriver beyond the causeway that spans the river between Moncton and Riverview. ** In his report delivered to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans 12 ** months ago, he recommended the completion of an environmental impact assessment to look at replacing a portion of the causeway with a bridge, opening the gates, or maintaining the status quo.