Hillier hopes to settle OCI project before election

By Chris Lewis | June 10, 2021

A controversial development slated for Long Pond harbour has been reworked by the proponent in the hope of allaying the opposition of concerned Conception Bay South residents.

Back in September 2020, Ocean Choice International (OCI) and the Town of Conception Bay South became the subjects of public scrutiny when residents learned of a proposed development that was originally slated for the middle of Long Pond harbour that would see some 1.7-hectares of infill work carried out in the harbour, as well as the construction of a cold storage facility.

On Thursday, June 3, OCI held a press conference accompanied by members of the Conception Bay South council wherein the specifics of a revised plan were outlined.

Blaine Sullivan, president of OCI, was hopeful the new plan will appease the concerned residents, some of whom are part of an advocacy group called the Advocates for the Responsible Development of Long Pond Harbour.

The new plan would see the main development moved from the middle of the harbour to its southwest corner.

According to Sullivan, some of the feedback the company received was from the recreational boating community, whose members were concerned the development would make it near impossible for boats to maneuver the channel and access the harbour.

In the original plan, there was room for a channel measuring about 30-metres, while the revisions make room for about 40 extra metres to the harbour’s entrance.

That, however, addresses only one of the concerns voiced by some residents.

Another major concern is the lack of a full environmental assessment, which the Advocates group has been calling for since the proposed development came to light.

During Thursday’s consultation, Sullivan told media it was deemed by the province that an environmental assessment was not necessary. Therefore, an assessment is not in the books.

“As has been stated clearly and consistently by several relevant groups and experts: the area of Long Pond Harbour is a fully developed, mature and functioning estuarine ecosystem,” said Pierre Geauvreau of the Long Pond advocacy group in a written statement to The Shoreline. “Any work proposed in the Long Pond Estuary requires that a full and proper Environmental Assessment be performed.”

Sullivan said the changes in the proposal include a 90-metre long finger pier as opposed to the marginal wharf originally intended.

The project comes with an estimated construction cost of between $15-million and $20-million, with the most recent changes adding some $2-million to OCI’s expenses, according to Sullivan.

Councillor-at-large Rex Hillier, who chair’s council’s planning committee, said the project had not yet been approved by council and still has a number of processes to navigate before anything is finalized.

That being said, the Town itself still does not have any jurisdiction over development in Long Pond according to a ruling made in January by the Eastern Newfoundland Regional Appeals Board.

“We’re working on that in two ways,” Hillier said. “One, we’ve registered an appeal to the Appeals Board’s decision, and we’ve passed an amendment to our town boundary legislation about a month ago to ask government to basically give us jurisdiction over the pond.”

Hillier highlighted provincial maps of the province, wherein the pond itself is considered part of Conception Bay South, with the boundary going across the inlet to the harbour and down the coastline.

This, Hillier said, shows the pond is in fact a part of the Town and that it should maintain jurisdiction over it.

But until that is finalized, the Town cannot make any further decisions with this project, he said.

Another aspect of the project that needs to take place, according to Hillier, is a hydrodynamic study. In December, when a land use impact assessment report (LUIAR) came back to the Town, Hillier said it was obvious the project was lacking a hydrodynamic study. These studies cover things such as ice buildup and currents in the pond, the potential for flooding and sedimentation, and other potential impacts of the project.

The study, Hillier said, needed to be re-done. So, the Town took it out of the hands of OCI and handed it off to its engineering consultant, Stantec.

That company, Hillier said, is in the process of finishing up its report and he expects to see it in the coming weeks.

“So, we obviously can’t vote on it without jurisdiction, but we’ve also said we will not vote until we see what Stantec comes back with in the hydrodynamic study,” Hillier said.

Hillier said he hopes to see the decision made within the coming months, stating that with municipal elections right around the corner in September, it would not be fair to hand off such a heavy project to the next council.

“I really don’t see that as fair, for another council to have to take this on and go through the whole process, read up on where we are, all that,” Hillier said. “We’d like to think we can finish that up. We’ve got three meetings before the next council, so we’d like to think we should be able to finish it up before then.”

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