Ayer's Cliff, Quebec
Some residents in the Lake Massawippi area hope to convince the Quebec Ministry of Transport to allow a proposed natural gas pipeline to run down the centre of Autoroute 55 instead of through their backyards.
Pending federal and provincial approval, the TransQuébec & Maritime Pipeline (TQM) will be constructed between Lachenaie, north of Montreal, to Pittsburgh, N.H. starting in December of this year.
The 220-kilometre pipeline, jointly owned by Gaz Métropolitan and TransCanada PipeLines, will run through Granby and Magog before heading cross- country through Magog Township and Ste-Catherine-de-Hatley. It will then run up to Coaticook through Stanstead East, bypassing Ayer's Cliff. The end of the Canadian section will be at the border near East Hereford.
The $230 million project must be approved by the National Energy Board of Canada. As well, provincial environmental assessment hearings (BAPEs) will be held. Officials from Gaz Métropolitan, which will act as project manager, have already begun meeting with landowners whose land the company will expropriate for the pipeline.
One such meeting was held last Wednesday in Ayer's Cliff. According to one attendee, several people were concerned about the impact of the pipeline on local wildlife.
Norman Benoit, who owns a farm in Ste-Catherine-de-Hatley, said that helicopters will occasionally have to fly over at 1000 feet to inspect the line. He wondered what kind of impact such low flights will have on deer and other animals.
Instead of running through green space, a number of residents suggested that the pipeline should run down the centre of Autoroute 55.
"Instead of paying us, the company could pay the government for its land, and the government could certainly use it right now," said Benoit. "But we were told that committees looked into that in the Eighties and the Ministry of Transport would not accept any kind of infrastructure on its territory."
Benoit said that the utility has "the right of life and death" when it comes to expropriating land. The only hope for landowners, who will receive roughly between $1500 and $2000 in taxable compensation for their land, is to prove that the inconvenience caused them is great enough to force the company to look for an alternative.
"There's no use in trying to say 'not in my backyard' because wherever we tell them to put it, people there will say that too," he said.
Running the pipeline down the centre of the autoroute as far as possible will offer the least inconvenience to everyone, said Benoit.
Running beside the autoroute on private land - as opposed to down the centre on public land - is one of the options being put forward by TQM. Plan A, however, would see the pipeline run along the Ste-Catherine-de-Hatley and Magog Township border before cutting across to Stanstead East near Ayer's Cliff.
Bunker Road resident Bruce Miller, who went to Wednesday's meeting but walked out because all proceedings were carried on in French, said that since then he has been led to believe by a TQM official that the latter option is the one the company wants.
"They said the autoroute option was no good because of rock and other technical reasons. Well, there's plenty of rock in my woods too," said Miller.
The Ste-Catherine-de-Hatley resident said that since Hydro-Québec removed poles from his property four years ago, he has been working at bringing that piece of land back to its natural state. Now, TQM wants to run a pipeline through it.
"I don't want to see a gas line go through my property," he said. "But if it really is the best plan, I'm prepared to accept it as a good citizen. I'll fight it until they convince me it's in everyone's best interest to go this route."
Richard Fahey, advisor for public and governmental affairs for Gaz Métropolitan, said last week that there is no reason why the pipeline could not go down the centre of the autoroute and could not understand why company officials said otherwise at the Ayer's Cliff meeting.
A larger point of consideration is that the pipeline be built as cost- efficiently as possible - in other words, as directly across land as possible in order to get approval by the National Energy Board, said Fahey. "We believe the line that is called for is one that offers an optimum choice," he said.
Reasonable proposals would be considered, he noted, adding that it is "not a done deal." No dates have been set for BAPE hearings.
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