Amherst marsh aboiteau needs to be replaced

Darrell Cole
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Baillie to pressure government to act

Fort Lawrence landowner John Atkinson looks over a map of the marsh near Amherst with PC leader Jamie Baillie and Cumberland North PC candidate Judi Giroux. The PC leader is calling on the province to replace the 56-year-old aboiteau outside Amherst to protect millions in dollars in infrastructure.  

FORT LAWRENCE – Land and business owners in the Fort Lawrence area are growing increasingly impatient with a government pledge to replace the aboiteau on the LaPlanche River.

PC Party leader and Cumberland South MLA Jamie Baillie toured the aboiteau on Tuesday at the invitation of Cumberland North PC candidate Judi Giroux and pledged to go over the province to complete the work as quickly as possible.

“I can’t help but think about the risk here to the businesses and the land owners here outside Amherst,” Baillie said. “It reminds me of the seawall in Advocate when all levels of government worked together to get that project done. The cost of doing nothing is great and that’s why it’s important we get that study done and put in place a practical plan to complete the replacement so that people need not worry. It’s one of the most important things government can do.”

Giroux said she has met with landowners and understands their concerns should the existing aboiteau fail. She said the province does not believe it’s a priority.

“This has to be done because time’s going to run out. Then we will have a real catastrophe,” she said. “It’s time to move forward on this. The time for studies is past, it’s time for action before it’s too late.”

Land owners and members of area marsh body organizations have been pressuring the province to replace the existing wooden aboiteau that was built in 1957 with a new modern structure.

The province announced in November 2011 that it was putting $500,000 aside to complete an engineering study to assess and design a replacement for the aboiteau on the LaPlanche River.

Study results were expected by the end of last year, but no one has heard what the results were.

The province did announce in its capital budget that $1.2 million was being set aside the replace the aboiteau.

East Amherst Marshlands Body chairman Doug Bacon said the provincial Environment Department is advocating something be done

“They’re saying global warming is a fact, it’s going to take place and we have to be prepared for it,” Bacon said. “They’re advocating something needs to be done now for all the dykes and aboiteaus in the province. If it takes this long to fix this one, imagine how long it will take to get to the others.”

The aboiteau is part of a system that protects about 1,800 acres of marshland around Amherst, most of which is used for farmland. The aboiteaus on the marsh protect about $160 million worth of public and private land.

An attempt was made in 2007 to replace the aboiteau with engineers diverting the river and putting a new structure in place. That structure failed a few months after it was built and remains a twisted, torn piece of wreckage in the river.

“Obviously the Department of Agriculture recognized there was a problem nearly 10 years ago that something had to be done. They made an attempt to fix it, but it only lasted 30 to 60 days,” landowner John Atkinson said. “Fortunately they didn’t dig out the old one because we would have had a huge mess.”

The aboiteau not only protects farmland, Atkinson said, but it also protects millions of dollars in infrastructure in the Sprott wind farm, the Trans-Canada Highway, the town’s sewage treatment facility, railway and businesses between the Fort Lawrence and the town.

“They could all be under two or three feet of water if this aboiteau gives way,” Atkinson said. “They’re the bigger players in all this.”

Atkinson said the firm hired to complete the study, CBCL, did meet with landowners and Sprott Power, but he doesn’t believe the company met with business owners along the former golden mile.

Agriculture Department spokeswoman Krista Higdon said the province remains committed to completing the project.

“We’ve been working with an outside firm to determine the best option. We are awaiting that report and should receive it soon. Once we have the report we’ll look at the options and meet with the local marsh body,” Higdon said.

Higdon is not sure of the project’s timeline.

Twitter: @ADNdarrell



Organizations: Cumberland North PC, Department of Agriculture, Trans-Canada Highway

Geographic location: Amherst, Fort Lawrence, LaPlanche River

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Recent comments

  • Tory Member
    May 15, 2013 - 09:07

    What a waste of time for all concerned, neither Baillie nor Giroux will be around after the next election...both are Harper and Little Harper puppets...wonder if Giroux attended on the federal taxpayers time and dime.....

  • Andrew
    May 15, 2013 - 07:43

    So...everyone from the PC party is mad that the aboiteau has not been fixed. Let's see, it was built in 1957. How many of the ensuing years did we have PC's as the government??? Where is the maintenance plan for continued upkeep of the dykes that I am sure you put in place when the aboiteau was built? Did any past government set aside funds for ongoing repairs, upgrades, and maintenance to ensure the viability of the aboiteau well into the 21st century? I'd doubt it. That would entail a belief that global warming was coming, and that would entail a belief in real science. This is something a dyed-in-the-wool PC wouldn't believe. It's been 4 years since we elected the NDP to govern. In that time, they have funded a study, and now appear to have $1.2 million in funding ready to go to replace the aboiteau. How is it that they (the NDP Government) were able to make such pertinent and timely decisions on our behalf when previous governments could not? And why is it that the PC's are crying foul now, when they likely had 50% of the governing time in the past 50 years to affect a repair or upgrade to the aboiteau? The 2007 repair cited in this article makes it sound like they took a sledgehammer approach to "fix" the problem, and when it didn't work, they simply shrugged their shoulders and walked away. Great governance there, right? Why wasn't Jamie Baillie so appalled about lack of action while he was part of the governing party? Where has Judi Giroux been? She's just puppeting a script written for her by the PC spin doctor team in a bid to get her elected. Give me a break! The NDP has done more for Cumberland County in 4 years than the LIBS and CONS did in the past 50 years. Instead of posturing and floating through their term in office (like the Old Boys Network would do), the NDP has invested many millions of dollars into this area to stimulate the economy. Also, it would be interesting to compare the number of times we have had the Premier in Amherst since 2009, versus the number of times we ever saw a Premier in Amherst during the first 9 years of the 21st century. I am sure you would be surprised to see just how much attention is being paid to this area. If you don't vote to re-elect Brian Skabar, and the NDP, the efforts made to enhance this region of the province over the past four years will have been wasted and we will go back to being the image of a backwater Podunk that has haunted us since Confederation. Wake up and smell the coffee, folks!

  • Skippy
    May 15, 2013 - 03:11

    So the PCs screwed this up in the first place and now they want us to believe that they're going to fix it? Right...and I have some magic beans to sell ya.