by Chris McGarry Oct 25, 2015, The Eastern Graphic
A small group of members of the Southeast Environmental Association (SEA) gathered at Access PEI in Montague for the nonprofit organization’s annual general meeting on Saturday.
One of the key issues discussed was the provincial government’s proposed PEI Water Act. Jackie Bourgeois, executive director of SEA, said that although the purpose of the act is to protect the Island’s groundwater, the provincial government is not doing enough to engage the public on this critical matter.
“Although the government is holding consultations, they are not making information regarding the proposed rules and regulations nearly as accessible to us as we would like,” Ms Bourgeois explained. “As of yet, we don’t know what the condition of PEI’s groundwater is.”
With mounting pressure on the provincial government to allow the digging of deep water wells, Ms Bourgeois is concerned about the impact they will have, particularly in areas of the province with little tree cover.
“It is imperative government identifies where these deep water wells will be located. We have to ensure that saltwater does not get into the groundwater,” she said. “The government wants to have the PEI Water Act passed into law by next year but that is too soon. There should be at least three to five years of careful research and studies done before such legislation is passed.”
Over the past year, SEA has been active with various project in this region. This past spring, SEA received funding from Valleyfield Community Council, the PEI Woodlot Owners Association as well as the Town of Montague that enabled the environmental organization work on the Community Pollinator Park located behind Access PEI.
Recently, SEA adopted a new logo. It shows a green leaf, a light blue wave, a red sailboat and a gold character. It was designed by Ms Bourgeois’ niece Josee Bourgeois of Shediac, New Brunswick.
“The green leaf and blue wave represent our land, sea and sky. The red sailboat is a symbol of economic development while the gold character represents our society and culture,” she said.
During 2014 and 2015, SEA embarked on several science-based projects, including a water quality monitoring program and the biological monitoring of streams. The group was also involved in monitoring the estuaries of the Pinette and Murray River areas.
SEA conducted riparian area assessments of the buffer zones of streams near the Montague River as well as the tributaries of the Cardigan and Brudenell rivers.
“There were major blockages, hanging culverts, alder overgrowth and silt runoff. These issues can easily be remedied by brush mats, tree planting, beaver removal and silt traps,” Ms Bourgeois explained. “Unfortunately, at the present time, SEA does not have the funding for these projects.”
SEA did receive $3,000 from the Wildlife Conservation Fund for stream restoration on the Valleyfield River and to remove three beaver dams from the Boughton River.
Another community development project that has been keeping the group busy is the Harvey Moore Wildlife Sanctuary. SEA did maintenance on some of the trails in the wooded area, put in gravel trails and repaired a boardwalk.
“Last year, a Master’s planning class from Dalhousie University came for a week. The students wanted to learn how we, as a nonprofit group, go about doing planning and development,” Ms Bourgeois said.
Melissa Laird, project coordinator for SEA, oversaw the planting of approximately 300 trees and shrubs in the new Community Pollinator Park in Montague.
“It has been a very ambitious project,” Ms Laird said. “On June 20, 17 volunteers came out to help us plant the first trees. On October 7, 26 students from the Montague High School biology class spent an afternoon planting trees. On Monday, 25 kids from the local 4-H group will be planting trees in the park.”
Next, Ms Laird and Ms Bourgeois used an interactive map of the Sturgeon River to explain the details of a riparian assessment which was conducted this year. Out of 60 kilometers of streams, 16 were assessed by the group.
“The assessment found healthy forested areas, low presence of invasives, a strong beaver presence and an accessible floodplain,” Ms Bourgeois said. “That being said, the crossing conditions were poor, there were old logging roads that have not been maintained as well as culverts which were too high for fish to get through.”
The meeting moved on to discuss SEA’s revamped website, which has a new format and is more user-friendly to the public. The interactive site allows visitors to log on via Facebook and Twitter and shows the coordinates of maps in the area.
“SEA has to be as accessible to the public as possible. We want to be the go-to group for information,” Ms Bourgeois said. “With our new website, we are able to show all of the work that we’ve been doing.”