Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Is relentless industrial development threatening the beautiful Birdtail River? Lucrative highway contracts have brought an explosion of noise and congestion to a picturesque valley in western Manitoba. (Letter)


Dear Editor,

If ever there was an example of just how numb we've become to the planetary crisis we all face, it’s surely playing out in plain sight right here, right now, in Shoal Lake. As many of my neighbours will already know, big dump trucks have been lumbering by in front of our homes for about a week now. Beginning before dawn, they sometimes become a steady stream that lasts much of each day, coming and going, until about dusk. 

These heavy diesel "twenty-two-wheelers" with long, steel boxes, have been moving gravel (or some similar material), from a big mine along the Yellowhead to the west, to a big maintenance project along Highway 21 to the south.
One of the many trucks working on the project
in question, ready to be loaded at the mine.
Since the trucks pass right by our front window, I’ve been able to do a rough count. At about 150 round trips per day, they must be set to move hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of material before the operation ends. Make no mistake, folks. This is one big job. 
The mine in full operational mode, fall, 2018. PinP photos.
The mine supplying the raw product has been expanding for years along the banks of the Birdtail River. I’ve been out there a few times over the past few years. I’ve captured shots of the copious dust it kicks up when in full operational mode (above). You can also hear the din of the machines echoing up and down an otherwise fairly peaceful valley. Prevailing westerlies carry the dust from the mine right over (and no doubt into) the river. Such sediment has long been proven to be bad news for fish and other aquatic life. 

This seems to matter not, however. Neither does the fact that internal combustion engines are significant contributors of greenhouse gases and climate change which the experts are warning will be in “runaway mode,” or beyond our ability to turn around, in about a decade. 

Apparently, we are also supposed to ignore the fact that being exposed to diesel fumes, even for a short time, can cause coughing and irritation of the eye, nose or throat. Long-term exposure can lead to even more serious health effects, including cancer. So just how long will this highway “improvement” project last? I have no idea, do you? 

And, by the way, did you take part in the vote that gave them our permission to do this? Oh, that’s right! There wasn’t one!

So how do we maintain our roads and standard of living to the degree to which we've become accustomed without producing these downsides?  I personally believe - while it's not something many will want to hear - maybe we cannot! Surely at least part of the solution must include actually lowering our expectations - travelling less and driving more energy-efficient vehicles. 

One thing I do know. The way we are doing things now, is taking us all down a dangerous, and very congested road.

Larry Powell
Shoal Lake, Manitoba.

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