Frederick LeBreton, a retired electrician, and his partner, Hugette Richer, a PSW, have been living on their 7.5-acre plot just off Highway 535, for decades. Last month, without notice, Pioneer Construction crews contracted by the Ministry of Transportation parked themselves outside their property and began work.
Heavy machinery was brought in to dig up the old culverts and to divert Venus Creek, a waterway that flows from nearby Potter Lake and into the Veuve River.
The creek cut across the area where the new culverts are being installed. Crews installed temporary culverts around the area where the work is being done and pumped water into a hose around the sides.
LeBreton said he’s concerned for fish he said thrived in the creek before the crews arrived. Attempts at diverting the creek have been met with limited success, he said. Water levels are noticeably lower and the water is mucky. Worse, he says he hasn’t seen any fish in the creek since the work began.
“What happened to all those fish?” he asked. “I’m just looking for a solution.”
Tensions have been rising in recent weeks, with police called to the site by LeBreton, who said the crews were storing the culverts on his property without permission. Police talked to crews at the sight and determined everything was in order.
But LeBreton and Richer said work crews have been rude to them, and set up shop outside their home and started work without even knocking on the door to let them know.
“I’m a fair guy,” LeBreton said. “But these guys just have free reign … It would be appropriate to show some courtesy to people who live in the area.”
To keep the diverted water flowing around the creek, generators pump water night and day, making it difficult for anyone to sleep.
Richer said she has to get up early in the morning for work, but hasn’t been getting much sleep since the work began. Their dogs are also stressed not only by the noise, but by the presence of so many strangers so close to their property.
“When am I supposed to rest?” she said. “I wish they would just hurry up and get on with it.”
In an emailed response to questions, Gordan Rennie, a spokesman for the Ministry of Transportation, admitted that families in the area weren’t notified that work was about to start.
“The ministry’s standard procedure is to send a letter to residents in the area about the work with contact information for both the contractor and contract administrator,” Rennie said.
“Unfortunately, there was an oversight at this location and properties near the Venus Creek Culvert site did not receive letters (but) advance information signs were erected on the highway approximately two weeks before construction started.”
Rennie denied any culverts were placed on private property, and said the police visit to the site confirmed that Pioneer followed the rules.
As far as the fate of the creek, Rennie said there was one incident in which environmental controls to stop sediment leaching into the creek failed.
“The contractor called the Spills Action Centre to advise of the occurrence,” Rennie wrote.
“The Spills Action Centre did not identify an issue since any silt movement that may have occurred was silt that is existing in the stream bed and is not introduction of new silt material.”
Rennie said work to replace the culvert began during the week of Oct. 21 and is expected to be finished by Nov. 15.