February 14, 2002

Moncton Times and Transcript

Province applies to Ottawa for bridge project approval
by Charles Perry

Outside of a few dolphins who managed to manoeuvre up the Petitcodiac River into Moncton last year, “navigable” is not a word often applied to the river these days.

One hurdle you would never suspect planners for the third crossing over the Petitcodiac River would have to clear, would be approval from the Navigable Waters Protection Act.

Once a shipbuilding haven and a busy riverport for incoming and outgoing cargo vessels, the city has not handled a ship for several decades.

Silt buildup over the years, accelerated by construction of the Petitcodiac River causeway between Moncton and Riverview, has made navigation by the large vessels virtually impossible.

Nonetheless, along with other restrictions for constructing the bridge, the Department of Transportation must also meet the requirements under the federal Navigable Waters Protection Act.

Transportation Minister Percy Mockler recently dispatched the province’s application for approval under the act to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Anyone with written statements of approval, objections or commentary about the effect of the work on the bridge, has until Feb. 23 to send them to the Regional Director, Canadian Coast Guard, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Parker Street, P.O. Box 1000, Dartmouth, N. S. B2Y 3Z8.

“There is no hard and fast rule about how big a vessel has to be for a body of water to be considered navigable,” Michel LeClerc of Ottawa, manager of the Navigable Waters Protection Program, said yesterday.

“Movement by anything as small as a kayak or canoe would be more than sufficient for a waterway to be considered navigable under the act.”

He said the purpose of the act is to ensure safety of navigation, protection of the environment and protection of the public right of navigation. Even the construction of a wharf or pier, if there is a chance it can impact on navigation, would have to be approved by the program.

“We might determine it will cause no interference with transportation along the river,” said LeClerc. “But that is highly unlikely. I expect the bridge would be big enough to have some potential effect.”

The Department of Transportation plans to begin work on the long- awaited crossing, the replacement for the more than 75-year-old Gunningsville Bridge that still links Moncton and Riverview, some time this summer.

The project is scheduled to becompleted in 2005.

One group, which will be sending a written submission to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans under the Navigable Water Protection Act, is the Petitcodiac Riverkeeper.

Daniel LeBlanc of Moncton, director of the Petitcodiac Riverkeeper, said yesterday that the non-profit, preservation organization is currently in the process of preparing its comments on the province’s application and should be sending them off to DFO shortly.

LeBlanc said Riverkeeper wants to know if construction of the new bridge will have any effect on the water flow in the river.

“Our comments will deal with ensuring the project is executed without having any negative impact on the entire ecosystem on the river and does not interfere with any measures to improve the flow of the river,” he said.

“The integrity of the structure (the new crossing) has be able to accommodate options for restoring the river, including the full or partial removal of the causeway,” he explained. “Even the opening of the causeway must not be negatively affected by the new crossing.”

At the same time as the new bridge is being constructed, LeBlanc said an environmental impact assessment (EIA) will be carried out, to identify whether there are “durable solutions” for the restoration of fish passages, the river’s ecosystem and the tidal bore.

LeBlanc said any potential effect that water flow changes could have on fish movements will also be noted as a concern in the Petitcodiac Riverkeeper submission to DFO regarding the Navigable Waters Protection Act.

Quick facts

A little background regarding the latest step toward construction of the new bridge linking Moncton and Riverview:

The provincial government will build the approaches to the bridge, which will extend from the bridge to Albert Street on the Moncton side and from the bridge to Coverdale Road on the Riverview side.

Daniel LeBlanc of Moncton, the director of Petitcodiac Riverkeeper, said yesterday Premier Bernard Lord and his government have promised the new crossing will be designed so as to accommodate other scenarios, such as the full or partial removal of the Causeway.

The Gunningsville Bridge in East Riverview, which the new structure will be replacing, was built in 1917 by “sandhog” labourers from the United States and engineers in New Brunswick.

The municipal councils for Moncton and Riverview have each recently committed $750,000 toward design planning work for the crossing.