November 22, 2004

Joint panel named to review Bilcon proposal for quarry, marine terminal in NS

A three-member panel has been appointed to review a proposal from Bilcon of Nova Scotia to construct and operate a basalt quarry, processing facility and marine terminal at Whites Point, in Nova Scotia's Digby County. The proposed quarrying would take place on 120 hectares of land, on a year-round basis. Approximately 40,000 tonnes of aggregate would be produced for ship loading each week, for a total of two million tonnes per year.

The review panel was established pursuant to an agreement signed by federal Environment Minister StÈphane Dion and Nova Scotia Minister of Environment and Labour Kerry Morash. The agreement sets out the panel's terms of reference, along with procedures for appointing panel members and rules for conducting the joint review process.

The panel will be headed by Dr Robert Fournier, an oceanography professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax. He has considerable previous experience with panel reviews, including having chaired the National Energy Board - Canadian Environmental Assessment Act joint review panel for the Sable Gas Project (1996-1998).

The two other members are Dr Jill Grant, a professor at Dalhousie's School of Planning and a specialist in regional planning and resource development; and Dr Gunter Muecke, a specialist in the geological aspects of environmental issues who, since retiring as a professor at Dalhousie's department of geology and earth sciences and its School of Resource and Environmental Studies, has held appointments as associate research professor both at the School and the university's faculty of science.

One of the joint review panel's first tasks will be to finalize draft environmental impact statement (EIS) guidelines for the proposed project. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has released the draft guidelines for public review, with comments due by January 21, 2005. Once finalized, they will set out the issues Bilcon, as the proponent, will be required to address in its environmental assessment of the project.

The guidelines will also provide the company direction on how to describe and assess these issues, and how to structure the EIS to be submitted to the joint review panel. After taking public comments into consideration, the joint review panel will issue Bilcon the guidelines in their final form.

The draft EIS guidelines, as well as the agreement establishing the review panel, may be viewed on the Web sites of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca) or Nova Scotia Environment and Labour (www.gov.ns.ca/enla/eis/ca). Comments on the guidelines, in English or French, may be directed to Steve Chapman, panel manager Whites Point Quarry and Marine Terminal Project - Joint Review Panel, PO Box 486, C.R.O Halifax, NS B3J 2R7, E-mail Comments@WPQ-JointReview.ca.

Finally, the Agency has established a $100,000 participant funding program to support public participation in the joint panel review of the project. The total funding amount will be made available in two separate phases.

Phase I will provide up to $25,000 to help individuals to take part in the review of the EIS guidelines which have just been released for comment (as noted above). Phase II will provide up to $75,000 to help the public prepare for and take part in the panel hearings. Information regarding funding applications for Phase II will be announced at a later date. A guide to the participant funding program, the application form and further information may be viewed on the Agency's Web site (also noted above).

Eastmain-Rupert project review

Also through its participant funding program, the Agency has awarded a total of $55,588 to six non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to assist their participation in the federal panel review of the Eastmain-1-A and Rupert diversion project. The funding recipients are: RÈvÈrence Rupert, the Municipality of Sanikiluaq, Sierra Club of Canada, the Crees of the Waskaganish First Nation, the Cree Native Arts and Crafts Association and the Cree Outfitting and Tourism Association.

The funds will help the groups prepare for participation in the public consultation on the conformity of the environmental impact statement (EIS) for this project. During this phase, the public will be invited to review the content of the EIS and determine if the information presented is complete and conforms to the guidelines issued for its preparation. Details on this written consultation will be transmitted once the impact statement has been made public in both official languages. The proponents, Hydro-QuÈbec and its subsidiary, the SociÈtÈ d'Ènergie de la Baie James, expect to submit their EIS later this fall.

The second and final phase of the funding program for this project will allocate up to $95,000 to help the public prepare for and participate in public hearings on the proposal. Details on this phase will be announced at a later date.

The Eastmain-1-A and Rupert diversion project, located in northwestern Quebec east of James Bay, calls for: the diversion of some of the waters (up to 800 cubic metres per second) from the Rupert River watershed into the Eastmain River watershed; the construction of a power plant (up to 770 MV) on the Eastmain 1 reservoir; and the addition of structures at the La Sarcelle site, at the outlet of the Opinaca reservoir. This will require the construction of four dams, 51 dikes, two diversion bays (flooding an area of 395 square kilometres), 12,000 metres of diversion channels or tunnels, and two permanent access roads.

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