HANTSPORT, N.S. – PC leadership candidate and MLA Tim Houston spoke with approximately 20 residents at the Churchill House in Hantsport on July 9 to learn more about the aboiteau issue.
Many of the residents gathered said they have serious concerns about what the compromised aboiteau could mean for their community’s infrastructure, parks, and historical sites, including a graveyard located along the Halfway River’s bank.
They also expressed their fears about what next winter could mean, especially if there is heavy ice flow.
Following the meeting, Houston toured some of the areas around the Halfway River, including the Riverbank Cemetery and land near the failed aboiteau.
PC municipal affairs critic and MLA Brad Johns also attended the meeting.
Houston said he’ll put pressure on the government to get this issue addressed.
“We wanted to understand the issue, especially the financial impact, the pros and cons, what can be done and what should be done,” Houston said while at the Riverbank Cemetery. “I’ve certainly got an understanding of the impact of doing nothing. It’s significant.”
Houston said that he wants to make sure the provincial government “picks the right option” for solving this issue.
“If they’re talking about spending $5 or $6 million to raise a road instead of $2 to $4 million to replace what’s there, you’ve got to look at what makes sense,” he said. “The community seems to feel that putting the aboiteau back would be a good solution.”
When asked about the idea of leaving the Halfway River as is, which local fisherman Darren Porter would like to see, Houston said existing community infrastructure needs to be a priority.
“You always have to look at the impact on the existing community, and we’re talking about infrastructure that’s already here. Our roads, our ballfields, our graveyards,” he said. “We have to be very conscious of the negative impacts on those.”
Houston criticized the government for not doing enough to listen to resident’s concerns.
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Hants West MLA Chuck Porter said he has been in frequent contact with the province to get answers on what’s going on with the aboiteau issue.
However, legal issues with the Windsor and Hantsport Railway Company and ownership of that piece of infrastructure have complicated matters.
“I have been keeping up to speed on this, the deputy minister (of TIR) has been down to the aboiteau on numerous occasions, along with numerous officials,” Porter said. “I don’t know what the final plan will consist of.”
Porter said he’s talked to many of the residents in Hantsport and said their concerns are fair and valid.
He didn’t rule out having a public meeting in the near future to address resident’s concerns.
“There’s a legal issue going through the courts at this time, although something could happen before that’s resolved,” he said.
“It’s hard to say for sure, but I’m certainly hoping this will be addressed (before this winter),” he continued.
“I appreciate and know well, living there, the power of the tides and the power of winter when it comes along,” he added. “It’s clear to see what’s happening down there.”
John Woods, vice president of energy development at Minas Basin Pulp and Power, which controls power infrastructure around the Halfway River, said their facilities have been impacted by the aboiteau failure.
“We have had to relocate our high voltage power line twice and are currently making attempts to minimize shoreline erosion at our Hantsport site,” Woods said in an email.
The company currently extracts industrial process water from the Halfway River.
MBPP is a subsidiary of Scotia Investments, which is the umbrella corporation which also controls CKF, a major employer in Hantsport.
“We will be requesting a meeting with Chuck Porter (the newly appointed Minister of Municipal Affairs) to express our concerns and talk about a solution for Minas Basin Pulp and Power,” Woods said. “Now that he has a seat at the Cabinet table, we trust that he can bring a higher sense of priority to this matter.”
Woods said there has been a marginal increase in the fish population in the river since the aboiteau failure.