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OCI catches an earful at Long Harbour consultation

By Chris Lewis | Dec. 22, 2020

CBS residents who oppose filling in a large part of Long Pond harbour to accommodate seafood giant Ocean Choice International gave the company’s officials and members of council an earful during a public consultation session Thursday night.

Conducted online, the session lasted six hours, finishing up close to midnight, with councillor-at-large Rex Hillier speaking for council, and Rob Greenwood of Memorial University’s Harris Centre acting as moderator.

OCI president Blaine Sullivan led off the session outlining his company’s plans to fill in 1.7 hectares of the harbour so that the company can build a 90-metre long wharf and 36,000 square foot cold storage plant.

Sullivan introduced his company, discussed its operations and listed the various bureaucratic procedures the project has faced. Chief among them is a Land Use Impact Assessment Report (LUIAR) that was provided to council and subsequently to the general public last month.

Unlike many other large projects in the province, the OCI plan has been exempted from a provincial government mandated Environmental Assessment.

One of the bigger concerns raised by opponents of the project during Thursday’s session was the potential for flooding in Long Pond once such a large portion of the harbour is filled in.

According to Sullivan, a wave model analysis has determined that wave conditions at the entry of the harbour would remain relatively unchanged, and that water displacement would not be an issue. He said that because Long Pond is connected to the ocean, water levels would not see any significant rise once the new land is created.

“The wave energy is significantly reduced to the south of the development due to the shadowing effect of the new land,” Sullivan said. “This could have a positive effect, protecting the shoreline of the basin south of Ocean Choice’s development.”

Residents also raised worries about the new channel OCI intends to dredge through what will remain of the harbour. Sullivan said the new channel will skirt along the eastern edge of the new property, running about 1.2-metres deep and 100-feet wide. This, he said, should be enough for any recreational boater to navigate easily.

Several residents felt otherwise, including Tim LeGrow and Deana Yetman.

LeGrow, who owns property near the area where the new channel is to be developed, said there has been a lack of communication between the Town of CBS and the residents of Long Pond.

“My issue with this is that this has all happened behind the scenes, and (the Town) hasn’t been forthright with the people it will affect the most,” LeGrow said.

He added that his own application to build a new wharf in the area was rejected because of concerns over its potential impact on eel grass. LeGrow argued that in order for OCI’s channel to be dredged, the same eel grass that he was not allowed to disturb would have to be dug up and affected.

Despite that, LeGrow said he is open to OCI operating in Long Pond – it’s just that he doesn’t like the way the project is being carried out.

Yetman also indicated she doesn’t like the way the project has been handled. Her main concern is the proposed channel. It could, she maintained, pose traffic issues for boats passing each other as they enter and leave the harbour. This is not an issue with the existing channel, she said, as it is L-shaped channel, unlike the one OCI is proposing, which would feature more turns to avoid a large shoal in the harbour.

That shoal, she said, is well-known by boaters and can be easily avoided given the channel’s current configuration. Once OCI fills in the harbour, she argued, the geography will change and boaters won’t be as certain of their bearings.

Sullivan said OCI would be happy to put a marker near the shoal to avoid potential issues.

Yetman also suggested that 1.2-metres is not deep enough for every boat that could be in the harbour, noting the current channel is deeper than that, despite OCI’s contention the new one will be just as deep.

CBS resident Justin Fancy said OCI’s alteration of the harbour will have a profound impact on the town’s attractiveness and suitability for recreational boating.

“Recreational boating is an integral part of this town, and I believe it attracts many residents who come to reside here,” Fancy said, describing Long Pond as a hub of recreational boating in the province.

Sullivan insisted the proposed channel will more than adequate for all users.

“I really think the channel is going to be as good as what you’ve got now,” Sullivan said. “You’re definitely going to have to make a turn, but that’s not terrible. I don’t think that’s going to hurt.”

Sullivan added that given what the divers who inspected the existing channel found, he is surprised people think it is so good.

“There’s a lot of debris and everything there,” he said. “When we’re finished with this, you won’t have to worry. You’ll have your 1.2-metres, and you’ll have a channel that’s clearly marked. In many respects, I think it’ll be better. I’m not seeing the problem in the channel with getting boats in and out of there.”

All told, some 18 people made presentations and participated in question and answer sessions. Hillier, who chair’s council’s planning committee, said the information taken from the event will be used to help council decide on whether to approve OCI’s application, or not.

“The earliest this could happen is January 19,” said Hillier. “However, we will make sure that we have all pertinent information considered before this discussion and a vote takes place. That’s going to be a fair amount of work over the next couple of weeks to disseminate that and get our heads around where we’re going, in terms of decision making.”

While Hillier, as the planning committee chairman, did all the speaking for council at the session, it was also attended by councillors Kirk Youden, Gerard Tilley, Junior Bursey, Christine Butler, Darrin Bent, Cheryl Davis, and Deputy Mayor Richard Murphy. Mayor Terry French, who has declared a conflict of interest in the matter, did not attend.

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