March 9, 2001

Moncton Times and Transcript

Waste no time with river study

With the federal government announcement Wednesday that it has accepted the report by Eugene Niles into what to do about the Petitcodiac River, it is now time to get on with the job — swiftly and decisively. The preferred federal option is to do a full environmental impact assessment of the option of removing a portion of the causeway and replacing it with a bridge.

The matter has been bandied about as a political football for more than 30 years and despite mountains of studies, not one has taken a thorough and proper look at the issue.

Now is the time.

The federal government also opted for the most logical recommendation, since studying the impact of a partial bridge, which would restore most of the river’s natural flow, will also cover the impact of the various other options.

And while no decisions have been made pending the outcome of the studies and assessment, it is encouraging that the government opted for a potential solution that will — if shown to be acceptable — restore the river as well as deal with the specific issue of fish passage, which was the main mandate when this process began.

The issues are much wider than just fish.

It is also encouraging the provincial government is prepared to co- operate in the matter.

The province is the party which has to formally institute the environmental assessment, and we urge it to waste no time. There is no need for years, or even months, of wrangling over the details and who pays.

The river matter is too important and too urgent to be tied up in red tape.

Meanwhile, the province ought to also consider combining this work with the already-planned assessment of the new crossing to replace the Gunningsville Bridge. The two can hardly be separated and there are perhaps savings to be achieved.

We see no reason why the assessment alone should take years to complete, as has been suggested. It isn’t a new science.

And we are sure that if the two governments cannot complete the work in a timely fashion, there are competent private consultants who can.

Hire them if necessary.

It has been more than 30 years that we’ve dithered and dallied. Now the will to do the right thing exists, let it not take another five or 10 years before any results are seen.

Far too much energy and time that could have been used in more positive directions have been wasted on this controversy. It is time to end it and move on.