March 8, 2001

Fredericton Daily Gleaner

Causeway to be assessed
by Campbell Morrison

More than 30 years after the Petitcodiac River causeway blocked the flow of the river, a full environmental assessment will be done. In a release Wednesday, Fisheries Minister Herb Dhaliwal accepted the spirit of the recommendations of his own special adviser, Eugene Niles, who conducted a review of fish passage through the causeway.

Niles recommended that an environmental assessment is the next logical step, and that a partial bridge should be proposed to trigger it, giving the assessment a broad mandate to explore the issues.

The news release also included Environment Minister David Anderson and Labour Minister Claudette Bradshaw, the Liberal MP for Moncton- Riverview-Dieppe.

The release said if the provincial government initiates a proposal to restore fish passage, the federal government would enter into an agreement with New Brunswick on an assessment of the options outlined in Niles’s report as well as co-operating on an analysis of the costs, benefits and risks of the options.

Once the province selects a proposal, explained DFO spokesman Andre- Marc Lanteigne, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency would conduct an assessment that could be as expansive as the parties wished.

Since the causeway is provincial property, only the provincial government has the authority to propose a change and trigger an environmental assessment, he said, although Niles’s report clearly shows either government could initiate one.

“We can’t do anything on our own. They own (it) so they will have to mount a project, and this project will be subjected to a very thorough environmental assessment,” Lanteigne said. “We need a trigger for the process to kick in.”

Jean Blane, a spokeswoman for the environment agency, said she thinks the proposals set out in Niles’s report would spark an environmental screening that could turn into a public review panel if there is enough interest.

In the past six years, the agency has conducted 35,000 screenings on everything from minor things such as fences and new bridges over rivers to large mining projects and even a refurbishment of a nuclear power generating station.