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Residents near Lac-Mégantic, Que., fighting new rail relocation that is ‘destroying our lives’

Residents near Lac-Mégantic, Que., fighting new rail relocation that is ‘destroying our lives’

Kurt Lucas’s property in Frontenac, Que. has been in his spouse Monique Lacroix’s household because the Nineteen Seventies.

Positioned 5 kilometres east of Lac-Mégantic, within the Jap Townships, it’s the place they gathered as a household for many years, snowshoeing and snowboarding on their trails within the winter. It’s the place his father-in-law died.

However that 125-acre property is about to be expropriated to make approach for a brand new railway observe — a venture Lucas says would actually lower their property in two.

“It’s only a enjoyable place to be but it surely’s not so enjoyable currently,” stated Lucas, who says he has hassle sleeping due to the stress.

“That is destroying our lives, however no one talks about that, no one cares. Once more, we’ve obtained no help from the municipalities or from Transport Canada in any respect. So now we have to do it ourselves, and it’s actually powerful.”

He’s one in every of greater than 43 property homeowners whose land can be expropriated by the federal government.

Lucas says he and his spouse are even contemplating promoting their land due to all the difficulty. The property, which incorporates this sugar shack, was as soon as a soothing place for household gatherings. (Submitted by Kurt Lucas.)

This comes almost 10 years after the Lac-Mégantic prepare derailment, when a prepare carrying crude oil crashed into the centre of city on July 6, 2013, killing 47 individuals.

Within the wake of one of many worst rail disasters in Canadian historical past, the federal government dedicated to constructing a rail bypass system, to shift the rails away from the downtown core.

On Saturday, Federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra introduced the tip of the negotiation course of towards the acquisition of land in Frontenac for the proposed bypass.

As a member of a coalition of 256 locals, Lucas says most property homeowners nonetheless oppose the route, which might not solely negatively have an effect on almost 500 individuals but in addition lower farmland in two and, presumably, damage the area’s water provide.

On Feb. 19, the city of Frontenac will maintain a referendum, with locals being requested a sure or no query: Do you approve of the venture for a brand new rail bypass on the territory of Frontenac?

View downhill of small town main street, with landscape in background.
The city of Lac-Mégantic pictured earlier than the 2013 tragedy. Kurt Lucas says the proposed rail bypass would prolong onto his property, situated past the hills and forest within the distance. (Submitted by Kurt Lucas)

‘There’s loads we don’t know’

Lucas and his spouse purchased the property from her household again in 2013, six months earlier than the Lac-Mégantic tragedy.

“We fell in love with it, and that’s the place we had deliberate on retiring,” stated Lucas. “Now we’re taking a look at choices — like possibly even fully promoting.”

The federal government approached homeowners within the area, with the intention of shopping for sections of their properties for the railway. Along with leasing a bit of their household property, the federal government desires to buy a 125-metre extensive, 143-metre lengthy and 20-metre deep parcel, stated Lucas.

A father and son cross-country skiing in the woods.
Kurt Lucas along with his son Eric in 2010. Lucas says his household loved snowboarding across the lush property. (Submitted by Kurt Lucas)

“That is simply ridiculous as a result of it’s not like in the back of my lot, it’s within the center, and it impacts my entry,” stated Lucas.

“I don’t understand how I’m going to get on the opposite facet if there’s no particulars included in my supply.”

As a result of his property is zoned as agricultural, the compensation would even be minimal, stated Lucas.

residents near lac megantic que fighting new rail relocation that is destroying our lives 3
Lucas says the brand new rail would go on the base of his yard, making a 20-metre trench in his property. Submitted by Kurt Lucas.

“I’m getting like $10,000 which is a joke,” stated Lucas. “If I used to be zoned white, which is residential, it might be … $50,000 per acre.”

He says there may be lots of info lacking within the presents from Transport Canada.

Lucas wished info on how he will be anticipated to entry his property, but in addition about methods to insure his property, the influence of the vibration of the trains and sound air pollution.

With out this, he says the residents haven’t been in a position to correctly negotiate.

“We will’t consider the lack of worth … That’s what’s lacking. So it’s like, I can’t negotiate. I don’t have this info,” stated Lucas, including that water air pollution can also be a giant concern for residents who depend on wells.

“This observe goes to be in a trench so it’s going to be beneath the extent of my properly, however is it far sufficient that it wouldn’t have an effect on it when it comes to the amount or high quality? … There’s loads we don’t know. Even what they do know is fairly scary.”

Finish of negotiation interval got here as shock to locals

The federal government is providing compensation for 2 parts, says Frédéric Paré, the lawyer for 22 property homeowners.

“The primary is the worth of the land. On that half, we weren’t that far [from] reaching an settlement. The issue was towards the opposite level, that are our damages, troubles and [in]conveniences,” stated Paré.

He notes that his shoppers felt “saved in the dead of night” once they discovered the negotiation interval had come to a detailed final week notably because it had been prolonged 3 times earlier than.

A snowy scene, railway tracks and in the background, a town.
There may be debate amongst native residents about the place a railway bypass round Lac-Mégantic needs to be situated. (Martin Bilodeau/Radio-Canada)

Rail passes by individuals whose family members died in tragedy

Yolande Boulet-Boulanger’s land can be expropriated for the venture. She moved into her residence situated on the border of Frontenac and Lac-Mégantic in 1964.

She misplaced her grandson, Frédéric Boutin, within the tragedy in 2013. He was 19.

With a muffled sob, she stated she nonetheless experiences “lots of distress.”

“They selected a pathway that passes by individuals who knew individuals who died within the tragedy. I’m not the one one, there are others who’re instantly impacted and others who’re collateral victims,” stated Boulet-Boulanger.

That is the third time her property has been expropriated.

“It’s attainable my home will vibrate. [The track] can be so near the home,” stated Boulet-Boulanger, who notes that she is most involved about attainable water air pollution.

“These are private issues of mine that influence me, however once I take into consideration the contamination of water, that impacts hundreds, hundreds and hundreds of individuals.”

residents near lac megantic que fighting new rail relocation that is destroying our lives 5
Frédéric Boutin, 19, was among the many 47 victims of the Lac-Mégantic prepare derailment of July 6, 2013. (Submitted by Isabelle Boulanger)

A ‘dangerous thought’ from the beginning

Water air pollution is a really actual concern, says Joël Chotte, a consulting engineer who analyzed two research on behalf of the collateral victims’ coalition — a feasibility research by a consulting engineering firm commissioned by the city of Lac-Mégantic and a hydrogeology research commissioned by Canadian Pacific Railway and Transport Canada.

Along with the air pollution of the forest and destruction of the countryside, Chotte says the rail might pollute the water provide with chemical compounds and micro organism from the development.

“It’s a typical, traditional mistake made by authorities,” stated Chotte.

“After the crash of the prepare, authorities stated ‘okay, now we have to do one thing.’ The very best thought could be to switch the prepare or one other approach with a purpose to not undergo the city. Okay, that’s appropriate however … an increasing number of we noticed it was a nasty thought. And the authorities refuse to say [so.]”

In an emailed assertion a spokesperson for Minister Omar Alghabra stated they’re dedicated to the completion of the Lac-Mégantic bypass after ending the negotiations final week, and identified that two public consultations have been held in 2022.

“Since October 2021, landowners impacted by the land acquisition course of have been in a position to meet with Authorities of Canada officers at a chosen workplace in downtown Lac-Mégantic. If a landowner desires a gathering they’re able to request one,” stated the assertion. 

Alghabra’s workplace stated it can proceed to “be there for the communities.”