Could concerns over health, safety and a turtle stop a third quarry in Estey’s Bridge?

Estey’s Bridge resident Dan Gorham with a wood turtle. Photo by Nathaniel Purcell.

Residents of Estey’s Bridge and Douglas, near Fredericton, are worried about a third quarry getting established in their backyards and they have a new ally in their fight: the wood turtle.

Springhill Construction is requesting that a 128 hectare-block of residential-agricultural land covering an area from Carlisle Road in Douglas to Royal Road in Estey’s Bridge be rezoned industrial to operate a rock quarry.

Nathaniel Purcell is a resident of Estey’s Bridge who attended a packed public hearing in Douglas on June 13.  Based on what he heard there, he said that people in his community are adamantly opposed to rezoning the land.

“There was no community buy-in in either Douglas or Estey’s Bridge or Claudie Road for a score of non-emotional reasons. A quarry imposed on Estey’s Bridge in 2014–in a long-standing residential zone, in direct contravention of Ministerial Regulations for the area–really did rob people living adjacent of their equity, their health, and their quality of life,” says Purcell.

The two other quarries in the Estey’s Bridge area have been criticized by residents for how the approval process lacked transparency and adequate information and consultation. The Conservation Council of New Brunswick has supported the residents’ concerns with letters to the provincial government. The Council has also called for changes to the Quarriable Substances Act that would better protect air and water quality and public health.

Besides concerns over deteriorating health, safety and quality of life, residents are concerned that a quarry could harm one of New Brunswick’s threatened species, the wood turtle. They hope that it can stop the quarry similar to how the Jefferson salamander stopped a controversial quarry on the Niagara Escarpment in Ontario.

Concerns over how the Nelson Aggregate Co. quarry would affect the wildlife, wetlands and woods along the Niagara Escarpment is the subject of a popular Sarah Harmer song, Escarpment Blues: “But if we blow a hole in the escarpment / The wild ones won’t have anywhere to go.”

Provincial biologist Maureen Toner spoke to about two dozen people at the Estey’s Bridge Community Centre on June 21 about the threatened species. A large population of wood turtles has been noted in the proposed quarry area, sparking concerns about protecting the turtle’s habitat.

“The wood turtles are a compelling reason in and of themselves for why there should be no development along the Nashwaaksis Stream,” says Purcell.

The wood turtle is an endangered species in Ontario and listed as threatened or endangered in other parts of North America.

The wood turtle is a pollution-intolerant species, having disappeared from waterways where vegetation has been stripped and water quality has declined. Biologists have noted the importance of protecting the nesting sites of wood turtles along streams.

Several activities associated with the proposed Springhill quarry threatened the wood turtle’s habitat, according to Purcell, specifically, the construction of road infrastructure, deforestation and forest alteration, drainage or filling of wetlands, shoreline and streambed alteration, hydrological alteration and sediment loading.

To protect the threatened wood turtle, Purcell would like to see a protected wildlife corridor established along the Nashwaaksis Stream with a 200 meter buffer zone on each side of the stream, extending from the Ring Road in Fredericton to the Kingsley Road in Estey’s Bridge.

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