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Longhouse releases statement opposed to Mercier

Surveys are underway in preparation for the MTQ’s Mercier Bridge replacement on the river’s north side. The local longhouse will be watching closely and not allowing further loss of land. (File photo)

Drilling will begin in the St Lawrence River this week as surveys of the riverbed begin for the new section of the so-called provincial side of the Mercier Bridge.

The work is called coring, and is a geotechnical survey of the riverbed to figure out the best place to put the pillars for the new Southbound Quebec portion of the span.

Patrick Ragaz, the general manager of Field Studies at the Kahnawake Environment Protection Office (KEPO), says about 40 small holes will be drilled into the riverbed. The holes will be between six and 12 inches in diameter.

“One thing that KEPO was concerned about with the drilling was the potential impact on any sturgeon spawning areas that might be in that location,” he said. “So that’s why we insisted a sturgeon spawning study be completed. The fieldwork was undertaken a few months ago.” 

This is just preliminary work, according to the Ministere du Transport de Quebec (MTQ). Despite holding a news conference in April 2018 to announce the new span, there has been precious little information as to when work would begin. 

“There is no way we can say and give a date because it is part of the operation of planification,” Gilles Paille, a spokesperson for the MTQ, said. 

Paille says it is just the first step. Once the surveys are complete, only then will tenders go out for design and construction. In the original news conference in 2018 the plan was to build the new portion on the western side of the existing span. However, Paille was unable to confirm if that remains the case.

The Mohawk Council of Kahnawake has been involved in the discussions with the MTQ about the work for several months. They had been planning to put out a press release today (Friday) about the coring. 

Rhonda Kirby is the council chief in charge of the transportation file.

“It’s still quite a ways away because of all the studies that need to be completed before they can actually make a definitive plan of what the bridge will actually look like,” Kirby said. 

No matter what the plans are, the 207 Longhouse is opposed to new construction in the water and on Mohawk land.

Kahnawiio Diome is a Turtle Clan chief with the Longhouse.

“We’re opposed to it because of everything that comes with the construction of a brand new bridge,” Diome said. “What’s that going to do to the river? What is it going to do to the land on the other side? What about all the trees, all the animals that live there, the swamp or all that? They will have to stop the water flow to get the machinery in there. Everything that comes with it, foremost is the environment.”

The longhouse put out a release yesterday opposing the project. 

Diome is an ironworker and regularly works on the Mercier Bridge, but that doesn’t affect his beliefs.

“Why do we have to sacrifice anything because of other people’s negligence?” Diome asks. 

He says the Quebec portion of the Bridge needs replacing because of years of neglect and mismanagement by the MTQ and the Quebec government.

“We are well aware and we also do not want anybody to take up any more land,” said Kirby.

Quebec’s Transportation Minister François Bonnardel recently said that the Mercier Bridge work would happen in the next five years. When pressed, Paille was unable to specify if that meant the beginning or completion of the work. 

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