Marshland digging angers Hudson’s Como Gardens Street residents
PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO
Como Gardens Street residents are questioning why heavy machinery was used to carve a 60-metre long trench through the marshlands next to Appleglen pond for the reported sole benefit of a golf course.
Hudson officials and a number of Como-area residents whose properties back onto Appleglen Pond, home to indigenous turtles, nesting birds, and beavers, are upset that heavy machinery was brought in March 28 to carve a channel lowering the water level to allegedly relieve flooding at one of the greens of the Como Golf Club.
Hudson’s Director General Catherine Haulard received an email notification from the Municipalité régionale de comté (MRC), which is responsible for all bodies of water in its 23 municipalities on March 27, one day before the back hoe arrived to dig an approximately 60-metre long path through the reeds growing in the marsh.
“We were called the day before,” said Haulard, “and told, ‘We’re coming in tomorrow’.” Haulard’s initial protests were met with the response that the Town of Hudson had no say in the matter. Only when Haulard asked for a detailed explanation of what interventions were planned for the marshlands did she receive a written description of the planned work from the MRC.
Haulard met with MRC biologist Élise Phoenix March 29 and said when she questioned why the work was so urgently necessary to bypass prior consultation with the Town of Hudson, was told that it was due to flooding concerns on one area of the ninehole golf course on route Harwood in Vaudreuil-Dorion.
“They (the golf course) are citizens, it’s fine, I understand they have a (financial) investment,” said Haulard. “But if she (Phoenix) would’ve called me earlier, we could’ve tried to find a long-term solution.”
The Quebec Environment Ministry delegated waterway maintenance, including man-made and natural dams, to the MRC, a move that Haulard recognizes is beneficial for Hudson, given its location at the end of the flow of the water network through the MRC, allowing the organization to serve as a de facto watchdog before water-related problems reach the town.
In the letter from Phoenix, Haulard was told that because the ground was frozen at the time of the work, it was exempt from the usually required Certificat d’Autorisation (CA) from the Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement, Faune et Parcs (MDDEFP).
“I’m surprised,” said Haulard. “Normally a CA is required from them. This is a registered conservation area. This is major.”
MRC Communications Agent Simon Richard told Your Local Journal the urgency was that the work had to be done on a frozen surface to minimize the environmental impact.
“We don’t discriminate,” he said. “We respond whether the call comes from a private citizen or a golf course. The MRC intervened to re-establish equilibrium in the water-level as defined by law.”
A copy of the MRC letter sent to a representative from the Centre de contrôle environnemental de l’Estrie et de la Montérégie was, as of press time, still being reviewed.
Both Como Gardens’ residents and Haulard said the region is protected and, besides any potential damage to aquatic and land nesting grounds, a number of oil deposits were visible two days later. Though the oil has not undergone testing to determine its source, Haulard said she placed her hand in the water when she visited the scene and detected the smell of gasoline.
Haulard said that while a representative from Como Golf Club was on the scene the day of the digging, no representatives from the Quebec Environment Ministry were there and only arrived to inspect what was done April 17 as a result of a phone call from the residents.
PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO
Residents said they were told that patches of oil visible in area puddles surrounding the dig site are naturally-occurring oils while Hudson’s Director General Catherine Haulard said she detected the smell of gasoline in the puddles after an on-site visit.
“The golf courses likely won’t open before early May,” said Hudson Mayor Ed Prévost who, with Haulard, pointed out that measures such as these are unprecedented.
“In previous years, they would wait for it to dry up,” Prévost said. “That’s it.” Haulard also said that any problematic beaver dam could have been remedied with a breach rather than being totally destroyed.
“We can’t even begin to assess what the long-term impact is going to be,” said Haulard, noting that the beavers are currently in breeding season. “Something like this can change the entire (area) ecosystem.”
Haulard further said the actions taken by the MRC are unlikely to alleviate the beaver dam problems. “Now there’s current,” she said, pointing out that the beaver will return to do what beavers do – make another dam.
Haulard said that emergency measures of this sort are typically permitted only in the event of flooding in residents’ homes but no such threat existed in this case. Two residents on Como Gardens who asked not to be named for this article told Your Local Journal that in 17 and 18 years respectively living near the pond, they had never encountered flooding and the beavers had never been problematic.
Richard said that’s not the information received by the MRC and, with their cooperation, the Quebec Environment Ministry will be issuing a report by the end of the week.
“If something hasn’t been done correctly, we will do everything to re-establish the situation,” he said, pointing out that the MRC has been active on environmental issues for 30 years.
“We’ve always been green,” he said, “and we’re taking responsibility here. We’ll face what the ministry has to say and we’ve already hired an engineer to make a study for us just to be sure everything was done properly.”
The Town of Hudson is paying for an assessor to evaluate whether property values are aff ected by the ensuing changes in the waterway following the MRC’s intervention. Appleglen Pond is contained by both beaver dams and a man-made dam paid for jointly by the area residents.
As of press time, Como Golf Club did not respond to requests for an interview.
Haulard reiterated she understands the MRC carried out its mandated responsibility but said it’s imperative the Town of Hudson be consulted before any more interventions.
“Élise and I did agree that, in the future, the moment there’s a complaint, she’ll get me involved,” said Haulard.