Potential Nestor Falls landfill site raising alarm

Peggy Revell

FORT FRANCES—Many in the Nestor Falls area are alarmed over the impact a proposed new landfill site would have on both the environment and tourism if the project eventually gets the green light.
“We are a considerable distance away from choosing any site,” stressed Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls Mayor Bill Thompson.
There currently is two proposed sites for the new landfill. The contentious site, known as “C7,” would be located along Peterson Road, west of Highway 71 between Nestor Falls and Sioux Narrows, with South Narrow Lake to the north and Lake of the Woods to the south.
The other proposed site, known as “C9,” is at the already established Nestor Falls landfill, located east of Highway 71 several kilometres south of the community, which then would be expanded.
Potential pollution and a blow to the tourist industry are reasons why local residents and businesses don’t want to see the “C7” site chosen, said Laurie Dennison of St. Louis, Mo., whose family has had a cabin in the area since 1959.
“Our lake is almost like a mountain lakes area, where it’s a bowl and the lake is down below and the sides of it are ridges where it goes straight up,” she explained, referring to the topography of the area.
“And the dump will be over where it goes straight up. So the dump is going to be at a higher elevation than the lake,” she noted.
“Obviously, our biggest issue is there’s a lot of potential there for serious problems with the water,” Dennison said.
“There are a lot of water issues that the residents know about that we’re trying to bring up now.
“There are springs in that hillside, so they don’t know for sure depending on how that leaches through—this is a totally spring-fed lake and the springs have been ruined once before,” she remarked.
“They don’t even have to make a mistake as far as geology or hydrology,” Dennison added. “Even if it was accurate, the problem is the prevailing winds.
“If you look at South Narrow Lake, it’s to the north of the dump, which means most of the time the dump [odour] will be blowing right over the lake,” she noted, citing one of the other possible problems with the proposed “C7” location.
Ultimately, a dump in that location will hurt the local tourism industry, she argued.
“These lakes right here are hugely used by tourism, and the tourism is all by word of mouth,” Dennison said, recounting how she hears back in St. Louis from people who are excited to come to this area of Canada because they’ve heard from others how the area is “the most pristine place in the world.”
But this reputation could disappear if people knew there was a landfill site in the area.
“It’s going to hurt tourism, and they can’t afford that right now,” she warned. “With the recession, it’s already eating into those dollars.”
Residents and businesses are organizing a campaign opposed to the “C7” site, said Dennison, making their concerns heard through calls and letters to the ministries of tourism and the environment, as well as other agencies.
“I sympathize with the people, I really do,” Mayor Thompson said.
“I can understand, if that were in my backyard, I would be raising some questions, too,” he added, though reiterating the site is only a potential one and that they’re nowhere near designating which is the preferred one for the landfill.
The search for a new landfill site is a joint initiative between Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls, Northwest Angle 37A, Naotkamegwanning (Whitefish Bay 32A), Northwest Angle 33A, and Onigaming, Mayor Thompson noted, both to find jobs for people in the area and address the issue of Whitefish Bay’s landfill site being full.
Golder Associates was hired as consultants to do a study on where the best location for the landfill site would be, as well as cost out developing and operating the landfill.
Applying various screening methods, the number of possible sites for the new landfill has been whittled down to the “C7” and “C9” options, Mayor Thompson said, adding research is still continuing.
“They have not defined the site with an awful lot of data,” he noted. “It really is a site that escapes all the other screening processes that we have in place.
“Of all the sites that were left over after all the screening was applied, this was virtually the only one—and the Nestor Falls one—that they felt were feasible to use,” he explained.
“We’re a long ways from making any decisions whatsoever,” he stressed, pointing to how many residents have brought up concerns of water flow at the “C7” site.
“Some are saying it flows into Kakagi Lake, some say it flows into South Narrow Lake.
“That may very well be. We don’t know, we have no idea,” he admitted.
“Before that site would ever be determined as ‘the’ site to use, there would have to be studies on that—and we haven’t even gotten close to that yet.”
Following the last round of community consultations, Mayor Thompson said Golder Associates will be going back and putting more information together on the project, as well as comparative studies to find out the estimated costs of running both the “C7” and “C9” sites.
Further community consultations also planned in the future.
But Mayor Thompson said he does not believe locating the landfill at the “C7” site would have an impact on tourism.
“The site that they have selected is in an ‘elevated depression,’ so there is a natural berm of about, say, 30 or 40 or 50 feet on three sides,” he remarked, noting it’s also half-a-mile or more from the existing road.
“So I don’t think believe that that’s an area that needs to be of concern.”
But just the presence of the dump in the area will be enough to turn away tourists, said Mary Haggberg of Lakeview Lodge in Nestor Falls.
“Lake of the Woods is really widely known, and the proposed site is very close to Lake of the Woods,” she noted.
“So even the perception that there could be pollution from it would be a negative impact on this area,” she argued.
And Haggberg said for resort guests wanting to access the boat landing on the road, they would have to go past the dump site.
“Also, there’s a resort on an island on Stevenson Bay, just not all that far from where the [landfill] site would be,” she added.
“So I know that that’s not something that they want to see there.
“That area is a recreational area that is used a lot [by] people to hunt, both local people and tourists, and some of the resorts even run guided hunts in that area, so that would impact that aspect of it also,” Haggberg continued.
The “C9” site, on the other hand, would be “ideal,” she said.
“It’s not close to any lakes and it’s not close to where anyone lives,” Haggberg reasoned.
“This area—on Crow Lake, there’s seven resorts right in a very close proximity to [‘C7’], plus all of the cabins on South Narrow Lake.
“There’s just a lot of people in this area and in close proximity to the three lakes: Lake of the Woods, South Narrow, and Crow Lake.
“It’s just not a good situation,” she stressed.
“I’m concerned that the economic impact could be incredible,” agreed Dennison, wondering if the economic impact will be evaluated along with any possible environmental impact.
“I’m just not sure if that’s going to be taken into account as much as it needs to be,” she said.
The “C9” site is the “most logical decision,” noted Dennison, with the only issue being the driving distance.
“[‘C7’] won’t be good for tourism in the whole area,” she stressed, pointing to how fishing guides and camps which aren’t located right in the area send people there because of the lake.
“Even if you don’t live right next to it, in some way it seems to affect lots of the towns,” she reasoned.
“We appreciate the input that we’re getting—that’s what the whole process is about,” said Mayor Thompson.
“That’s why we have community consultations.
“It’s so we can hear about the people and what they feel about the sites that have been selected,” he noted.
(Fort Frances Times)