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article imageAlberta Transportation Flexes its Muscles Special

By Kyle Ashmead     Mar 11, 2010 in Environment
Athabasca - Local residents of Athabasca, Alberta fight Alberta Transportations plans to straighten a section of the Tawatinaw River.
Alberta Transportation has plans to build a new bridge and intersection in Athabasca Alberta, which involves straightening a section of the Tawatinaw River. Local citizen groups have started to fight the purposed plan, but both the Athabasca Town and County Councils have refused to back their local constituents. Preferring instead the “hands off” approach. Leaving many residents wondering of the legitimacy of their locally elected representatives.
“The directly impacted people of the area need to have input into the process” Kati Blouin (co- founder Tawatinaw Watershed Stewards)
Alberta Transportation did a presentation to the Town Council, but when it came time for them to present, the local citizens who where there to peacefully hear the presentation, were told they must leave. Alberta Transportation presented the information in camera, to the Town Council. Many residents seem unaware of exactly what will take place.
The town stands to loose it’s camp ground, one of its main attractions. This combined with environmental impacts, could be disastrous for the town’s natural appeal. The town also stands to loose tourist dollars, as the campground is a main attraction to the town.
On March 3rd Alberta Transportation hosted a public consultation meeting at the Athabasca Regional Multiplex, on the purposed bridge replacement and Tawatinaw River realignment. They, however, failed to show up, instead Stantec Consulting and Golder Associates did their presentations on the issue.
This left many people feeling disillusioned and cheated. With many asking what the point of the conference was, if Alberta Transportation could not even bother to show up to their own information session.
Many of the people at the information session, felt their questions were not answered in a satisfactory manner. Leaving with many more questions then they came with!
Alberta Transportation cannot go ahead with their planned realignment if the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), does not approve it. If they were to go ahead without DFO permission, they could be sued by the DFO. This type of situation has happened before, but usually goes unpunished. Because DFO does not have the resources to police the entire country, Alberta Transportation is not always held to account.
Alberta Transportation has said the hill where Hi-way 55 comes into town is slumping. They have used this as reasoning for straightening the mouth of the creek where it runs into the Athabasca River. But have failed to provide much information on their reasoning. They have kept most of their plans unavailable to the public.
Environmental groups have countered the slumping issue, stating the fact that the current bridge has been in place, for over fifty years.
There are similar situations on the Smoky River as well as the Peace River, where the hills are slumping in the areas of bridges. These bridges have been stabilized on location so the technology is there to simply build a new bridge over the Tawatinaw River where it is..
The issue of traffic has also been brought up, many people in the area who drive the roads everyday. Don’t believe the current plans will fix the problem of increasing traffic levels.
“If the planned river realignment goes ahead, we will lose a relatively unaltered river in the center of our town,” Tawatinaw Watershed Stewards.
What will happen in Athabasca remains to be seen. But for the people of this small Northern town, there is the possibility that this issue will divide the town. However for the most part people seem to be overwhelmingly against the straightening.
More about Athabasca, Tawatinaw river, Alberta, Enviroment
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