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Hants County fisherman resigns from Highway 101 twinning community liaison committee, questions its legitimacy

Community residents Darren Porter (right) and Bill Preston line up to ask questions during a public meeting on the Halfway River aboiteau on Sept. 10.
Community residents Darren Porter (right) and Bill Preston line up to ask questions during a public meeting on the Halfway River aboiteau on Sept. 10. - Colin Chisholm

Friends of Avon River considering legal options to block project

WINDSOR, N.S. — Hants County fisherman Darren Porter is fed up.

Citing frustrations with a lack of communication and correcting misinformation, he’s calling it quits from the Highway 101 twinning community liaison committee (CLC).

Prior to resigning, he asked his fellow CLC members to address some concerns. He wanted them to commit to relaying “accurate information to clear up the misinformation released today in the Hants Journal by persons of trusted authority” (which was in reference to Mayor Anna Allen’s comments in a story regarding the pumpkin regatta), and to “have a meeting to get educated on options C and D right away so we can relay proper information as a CLC.”

If the concerns weren’t addressed, he said he would resign.

“Nobody answered me, so I’m done,” Porter said.

One of the CLC’s primary goals is to keep the community informed on the project’s progress.

Porter said, in that regard, they’ve failed miserably.

“At the end of the day I just want people to have the proper information and if the CLC doesn’t have that information, we should have information sessions, so we can relay that and correct the stuff that’s out there,” Porter said.

He said that none of the aboiteau replacement options would mean losing the popular pumpkin regatta, as the gates can be controlled to maintain water levels.

“They can hold that water back for options A, B, C, and D,” he said. “Unless you’re going to take the whole causeway out, which isn’t even on the table.”

The Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal hosted an open house information session on the Highway 101 twinning project. Most of the attention was paid on what to do with the causeway and aboiteau structure along the Avon River and Lake Pisiquid.
The Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal hosted an open house information session on the Highway 101 twinning project. Most of the attention was paid on what to do with the causeway and aboiteau structure along the Avon River and Lake Pisiquid.

“We’ve got a mayor telling 2,000-plus people… telling the people that we have to save the lake. They assume the regatta could disappear,” he said.

“These are people of authority. When the mayor speaks, they assume she’s serious,” he continued.

“As the CLC, we’re supposed to be putting accurate information, whether we agree or not, into the community. We have a responsibility to correct these things which are absolutely untrue.”

The CLC is not a decision-making body. Its primary goal is to keep apprised of project updates and to disseminate information to the public.

Porter said the CLC had issues with bias and representation since its inception, with most of its members coming from the Lake Pisiquid side of the river. He questions the legitimacy and objectivity of the body.

When asked about limiting his ability to affect change by leaving the CLC, Porter said there’s nothing more he can do from within.

“If they’re not willing to educate themselves on each option, like not losing your lake to special events, which CBCL told everyone, then what’s the point?” he said.

When reached for comment, Windsor Mayor Anna Allen said “Darren Porter and others have their opinions. I do not wish to debate this important issue in the press.”

Read More:

Competing interests remain as Windsor causeway solution undecided

20th pumpkin regatta draws thousands, with Lake Pisiquid on many people’s minds

Fate of Lake Pisiquid not set in stone

Hants West MLA says he wants Lake Pisiquid protected

Inner Bay of Fundy Salmon found in Lake Pisiquid

Friends of Avon River plan action

Sonja Wood, chairwoman of the Friends of Avon River group, who is also a member of the CLC, said she rejects Option D, which would maintain Lake Pisiquid as a freshwater lake and provide increased fish passage.

Sonja Wood, chair of Friends of the Avon River, a local advocacy group, said she’s planning to take action to get some form of tidal flow for the Avon River.
Sonja Wood, chair of Friends of the Avon River, a local advocacy group, said she’s planning to take action to get some form of tidal flow for the Avon River.

“We reject Option D because of the inadequate provision for fish passage, whereas Option C provided unimpeded 24-hour, year-round opportunities for the fish to enter and leave their critical habitats,” Wood said in an emailed statement. “The proposed modifications in Option D require that frequent gate closures, intended to maintain status quo lake conditions, present a serious impediment to fish migrations, and would not comply with the Fisheries Act.”

Wood said her preferred option for the Avon River would be to return to free, open tidal flow, similar to the Petitcodiac River in New Brunswick.

However, she said the FAR group has accepted Option C, recognizing the importance of flood plains.

“If Option D is favoured, the FAR Group will be prepared to take legal action against this plan, we will not compromise the Avon River Watershed and its species over the wishes of a misguided local populous,” she added.

Pull-out element

Who’s in the CLC?

CLC members include:

Shelley Bibby, Town of Windsor councillor

Brad Carrigan, Commodore of the Pisiquid Canoe Club and West Hants public works director (resigned, to be replaced by Vice Commodore Sheldon Hope) 

Louis Coutinho, Town of Windsor chief administrative officer

Dave Crouchman, former member of the Annapolis Valley Regional Centre For Education, now sits as citizen at large

Liz Galbraith, former Windsor Town councillor

Colin Hines, Falmouth resident

Randy Hussey, West Hants councillor

Kathy Kehoe, West Hants parks and recreation director

Martin Laycok, West Hants chief administrative officer

Darren Porter, Hants County fisherman (resigned)

Andrew Sheehy, former Windsor Rotary Club president

Gail Tupper, Glooscap First Nations resident

Mike Oulton, local farmer

Sonja Wood, Friends of the Avon River chairwoman

Project team members, who attend all meetings as observers, include:

Kevin Bekkers, NS department of agriculture

Mark Brace, NS department of transportation and infrastructure renewal (NSTIR)

Bonnie Miles-Dunn, NSTIR

Bob Pett, NSTIR

Justin Tanner, NSTIR

Brian Ward, NSTIR

First Nations consultations continue

Twila Gaudet, from the Glooscap First Nation, is the director of consultation with the Mi’kmaq Rights Initiative.

A consultation session took place on Oct. 9, where all of the options were formally presented to them.

“Currently, we’re taking the time to review and consider those options and certainly what we’re looking for is improved fish passage,” Gaudet said.

“We’re looking to avoid any impact on Mi’kmaq rights and title, and any impact on fish and fish habitat, is an impact on Mi’kmaq rights,” she said. “The option we are looking very closely at is Option C. We certainly don’t want that taken off the table.”

Gaudet said Option C provides a more natural fish passage than artificial fish ladders.

“We want it to be based on natural flow as much as possible,” she said. “There were traditional species there before the causeway was built and we understand that there’s been a habitat that has developed and grown as a result of the causeway, but it’s important for us to see the improved fish passage as much as possible.”

Gaudet said all parties have agreed to the terms of reference for a Mi’kmaq-Nova Scotia-Canada consultation process, which is ongoing.

“We will be consulted before any final decision is made,” she said.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story said that Brad Carrigan, Commodore of the Pisiquid Canoe Club was a member of the CLC, he resigned from the CLC earlier this year. The article has been updated to reflect that.

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