Base Borden roadwork concerns resident
By Brad Pritchard Simcoe.com Dec 20, 2012
ESSA – At the edge of Essa farmer Perry Turnbull’s property sits a tree-lined swamp full of blueberry bushes and many other kinds of plant life.
The picturesque landscape attracts a wide range of wildlife, like deer, rabbits, geese and other birds.
But he fears all of that will be put at risk as work continues to build a perimeter road through the area, which happens to be the southeastern border of Canadian Forces Base Borden.
Turnbull, 57, is a fourth generation farmer who has lived his entire life at the 198-acre property located on County Road 10, just a short drive north of Baxter.
He has many concerns about the work, which he became aware of last year and took notice of again recently
Turnbull fears the new road and culvert will adversely impact the area, especially the flow of the surface water.
But he’s more upset because he feels Base Borden is playing by a different set of rules than everyone else when it comes to environmental protection laws.
“It’s the federal government and if you ask me it looks like they are playing by a different set of rules than the rest of us regular folks,” he said.
Under the municipal bylaw, the portion of his property that borders the base is zoned as environmentally protected. However, that classification doesn’t apply to the base’s property just steps away.
At one time Turnbull had hoped to build a home in the area, but gave up when he realized how expensive and ultimately futile it would be to try and get an application approved by the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority.
Turnbull had ruled out the possibility of any development in the area, but then he learned of the base’s construction project.
According to Base Borden public affairs officer Cpt. Rob Bungay, in order to move forward with the construction work, which he confirmed will see a dirt road eventually built through the wetland, all of potential impacts to the surrounding area had to be looked at.
“All of the appropriate government agencies were brought in, including the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency,” he said.
Any damage that could be caused by the road or culvert, both in their construction and long-term use, were also studied and addressed, said Bungay.
In addition, he said the base had to come up with mitigation strategies to prevent damage in the case of an emergency. For example, if a vehicle on the road experienced a fuel spill, then all vehicles must be equipped with fuel spill kits.
“All that has to be taken into effect…because it’s the environment and that’s something we take very seriously,” he added.
Bungay said the project, which started in 2009 and doesn’t have a completion date, is being done to link up the base’s existing dirt perimeter roads.
“We’re just finishing what was already started,” he said.
There are also plans to build new fencing, which he said will still allow the passage of small wildlife.
The goal is to have Base Borden completely encompassed by the roads, which he said is important not just for access but security reasons, something he noted is standard procedure at all military bases.
“When you’re talking about training areas, you don’t want people wandering into training areas,” he said. “It’s more of a safety issue too.”
While he can understand the purpose of the road, Turnbull still doesn’t see why the base should be allowed to build it through the wetland.
Bungay said the base is following the proper process, saying if it didn’t comply with the government agencies, then it “wouldn’t have been able to move forward with the project.”
Turnbull is also miffed by the lack of consultation with neighbouring property owners.
“It would have been nice if they told us what they were doing back here,” he said.
While the base didn’t advertise the project in local newspapers, Bungay said a notice was posted in March of this year on the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency website.
Essa Township manager of planning Colleen Healey wasn’t aware of the project either until Turnbull called her to share his concerns.
Healy said it would be challenging for the township to move forward with a road construction project in an environmentally protected wetland.
To make such an attempt, she said the municipality would have had its work cut out for itself in terms of conducting environmental studies and public consultations.