[Sust-mar] Blue Mountain - Birch Cove Lakes update

Graham Smith sage at eastlink.ca
Thu Dec 8 17:25:36 EST 2005

Blue Mountain - Birch Cove Lakes
E-update: December 2005
HRM proposes to protect wilderness
HRM is poised to declare a portion of the Blue Mountain - Birch Cove Lakes wilderness as a protected regional park through its new regional planning process.  This is a major victory for our campaign and thank you to everyone who has taken the time to voice your concerns about protecting Blue Mountain - Birch Cove Lakes.
Because much of Blue Mountain - Birch Cove Lakes consists of Crown land, however, the area won't truly be protected until the province comes on board with the municipality.  We must keep up the pressure.
The final draft of HRM's regional plan will be available to the public after December 6th on HRM's website:
Unfortunately, the regional plan also makes provisions for Highway 113 to be constructed through the middle of the proposed Blue Mountain - Birch Cove Lakes regional park, by zoning a portion of the wilderness as a "transportation reserve".
Public hearings on the regional plan could take place in late January or early February, followed immediately by a ratification vote by HRM's regional council.
Premier overwhelmed with letters
Since October, the Premier's office has received almost 100 letters demanding that Blue Mountain - Birch Cove Lakes be protected as a wilderness area and that the proposed construction of Highway 113 be stopped.
Thank you to everyone who has written the Premier on this issue.  It is having an effect.
The Premier's office is obviously taking notice and the spin machine is in full operation.  The Highway 113 project is now being referred to as the "Highway 113 Corridor Preservation Project".  But, we are not fooled by this name change.
The project currently registered with the Department of Environment and Labour is to BUILD a highway, and construction can begin at any time once environmental approvals for the project are granted.  In fact, environmental approvals, as set out by the Environment Act, require work to begin on a project within 2 years of receiving environmental approvals, or those approvals could become null and void.
Highway 113 environmental deadline extended
The Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Labour has extended the final deadline for the environmental assessment of the Highway 113 project, giving the Department of Transportation and Public Works (TPW) till March 31, 2006 to complete its focus report.
This will be the fifth attempt by TPW to gain environmental approvals for the Highway 113 project without carrying out a full Class II environmental assessment.
The public review period for the Highway 113 project will begin as soon as the final report is submitted.  Stay tuned!
Petition reaches 1750 mark
The petition to save Blue Mountain - Birch Cove Lakes has topped 1750 signatures.
Diana Whalen, MLA for the Birch Cove Lakes area tabled the petition in Province House on November 3, 2005.  It calls on the Provincial Government to declare the publicly-owned Blue Mountain - Birch Cove Lakes a legally protected wilderness area.
We are still gathering signatures for the petition and hope to reach the 2000' mark by the time Highway 113 comes available for public review in the new year.
Copies of the petition can be downloaded at:
Clarity sought on Highway 113 classification
New 4-lane highways in Nova Scotia longer than 10km are required to undergo full Class II environmental assessments.  Highway 113 was designed to be 9.9km in length, just shy of this cut-off mark, making it subject to a much less rigourous Class I environmental assessment.
This maneuver has prevented the public from directly participating in the environmental assessment process for the highway, except for a limited 2-week period at the very end of the process, yet to come.
Turns out, however, that Highway 113 may actually be longer than the allowable 10km in length.  
The Department of Transportation and Public Works confirmed in November that it has not included the full length of the highway infrastructure in its distance calculation.  Instead, substantial portions of the roadway have been removed from either side of the proposed Highway 113.  The reason for doing this seems clear enough to us.
By including the entire road infrastructure for Highway 113, the Department of Transportation and Public Works would be required to carry out a full and transparent Class II environmental assessment.
For a map of the proposed highway, checkout our website:
Cost of highway could jump to $100 million
Ron Russell, Minister of Transportation and Public Works, suggested recently that Highway 113 could cost upwards of $100 million to construct by the time it's built
On a particularly ruckus day in Province House, the Minister stated on October 20th, ".by the time we get to build that highway it's probably going to be a $100 million highway."
That's a lot of money for a highway, the purpose of which is to save a mere six to eight minutes of driving time for traffic traveling between Hubley and Bedford.
Grade 7 Park West students explore wilderness
Over 100 hundred grade seven students from Park West School in Clayton Park West ventured into the Blue Mountain - Birch Cove Lakes wilderness this fall to learn about the natural area and its importance to the environment and the community.
It was a cold and windy day, but the students successfully braved the elements.
They will be incorporating what they have learned about Blue Mountain - Birch Cove Lakes into their science and social studies curriculum throughout the school year.
Hats off to the students of Park West School!
Please feel free to forward this email as widely as possible.
For more information, contact birchcovelakes at yahoo.ca

Birch Cove Lakes Wilderness Society
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