Sunday, September 26, 2021

Whale sanctuary prompts concerns about traffic

Wine Harbour residents ask for local council’s ‘influence’

  • April 28 2021
  • By Alec Bruce    

WINE HARBOUR – Three residents of this tiny St. Mary’s community are expressing new concerns about an international effort to make a home for as many eight beluga whales in their coastal waters and want local council to intervene.

According to Municipality of the District of St.Mary’s Chief Administrative Officer Marvin MacDonald, he and Warden Greg Wier recently received emails from community members expressing reservations about increased truck traffic during the construction and operation of the U.S.-based Whale Sanctuary Project (WSP) and asking municipal council to weigh in on their behalf.

“We’ve received three emails from three different residents, asking us if [the decision] can be influenced in any way,” MacDonald said of the sanctuary, which is scheduled to open – pending government approvals, sometime in 2022.

Asked what specific issues the residents raised, he stated the emails “are kind of personal to the warden and myself. We’re not really putting those out to the public in any way,” adding: “They concern probably a lot of truck traffic to deal with construction and with the supply of materials to operate a whale sanctuary, whatever that may be.”

Regarding the request for council, MacDonald said: “The municipality has very little control over things like that. It’s not a municipal location. It’s a private land deal.”

Last month, WSP Executive Director Charles Vinick told The Journal that after extensive community consultation, the organization had struck an agreement in principle for 110 acres of “water space” and 33 acres of land in the vicinity of Barachois Island. “Public access would be greatly controlled,” he said. “We will have full-time security with boats to maintain [a] buffer [for the whales in the water], and on land [to make sure we know] what’s coming in the way of critters and people … Given where we are today, we are targeting welcoming the first whales by the end of 2022.”

MacDonald said council will now pass along the issues to Vinick with a recommendation to address them. “They just want to let him know the concerns in that community and that he should probably address them through a meeting,” he said.

Reached for comment, Vinick said, “The amount of traffic that could potentially want to access the sanctuary via Barachois Road and what the boundaries of the sanctuary will be in the bay are issues with which we will be continuing to work with residents about. I anticipate that there will be many questions as we get into more detailed planning and we look forward to working through any issues in ways that are responsive to anyone’s concerns.”