Work has begun on Meadowbrook to divert St. Pierre River underground-  Fall 2021

     

    Preparation work in progress: capturing brown snakes, an endangered species. Photo: Andy Dodge

    The open stretch of the St. Pierre River that crosses the Meadowbrook golf course will soon be diverted into a drainage pipe system underground, but its story is not necessarily over. Members of Les amis and many others have fought hard to save it and they have not given up hope that it will be open to the daylight again someday.

    Following a court order, the Agglomeration Council of the City of Montreal has awarded a $1.5-million contract to carry out the work, which was scheduled to begin in November, after the golf season ends. Once completed, this project will decrease the river’s watershed by 96%.

    The project also involves the removal of a number of trees, and the contract specifies that 24 trees and numerous shrubs must be planted to replace them. We are concerned that some or all of the trees may be century-old trees and this will have a great impact on the environment as well.

    Les Amis, the Conseil régional de l’environnement de Montréal (CRE-Montreal) and the Mouvement Ceinture Verte recently wrote a joint letter to the provincial Minister of the Environment and Fight against Climate Change (MELCC) demanding that steps be taken to mitigate the environmental damage done by this work. We asked that the City of Montreal be required to build a temporary pipe structure that can be easily removed to allow the river to be re-instated once the pollution problem has been resolved, and that the city be required to construct a facility to capture rainwater and channel it back into the river bed in order to support local biodiversity. The reply was disappointing at best, the MELCC indicating it has no power to act in such a case where jurisdiction has been delegated to the municipal level.

    The St. Pierre River once flowed from the slopes of Mount Royal, through Côte Saint-Luc and into a lake at the bottom of the Saint-Jacques escarpment, entering the St. Lawrence River in Verdun. As city roads and houses were built, the river was diverted underground into the storm/rain water sewer system. The only large stretch of water remaining open to the sky is this stream, flowing from the Toe Blake storm/rain-water sewer collector on one side of the golf course and back into a sewer on the other side. Improperly attached sewer pipes from some buildings and houses in Montreal West and Côte Saint-Luc have allowed raw sewage and waste water to get into the storm/rain-water sewer system, polluting the stream for many years.

    Groupe Pacific, the company that owns the Meadowbrook property, took the issue to court. In January, 2021, the Quebec Court of Appeal ordered the City of Montreal to prevent all water, both polluted and clean, from flowing onto the golf course. City officials say their hands are tied by the ruling and they risk being charged with contempt of court if they do not follow it.

    At a virtual public meeting in mid-August, a Montreal city official, Chantal Morissette, director of the Water Department, explained that the contractor will dig across the golf course, along an existing servitude and install an underground pipe, extending from the Toe Blake collector to the far side of the property.

    Photo: Nigel Dove

    A number of groups and individuals have tried to find a way to prevent this outcome. Les Amis launched a campaign to write the mayor of Montreal about it, and 125 people, including eight environmental groups, have so far signed a declaration making themselves legal guardians of the river as part of the 200 mètres group that was formed. CRE-Montreal recently published an article in the online Bulletin Envîle Express. Arguing that the plan makes no sense, it noted that the source of the pollution is known and work was underway to resolve the problem. The article added that “the Court of Appeal did not deny that the creek is a watercourse within the meaning of the Act, a fact that had been previously established by the Superior Court,” and it suggested that the court-ordered solution results in more serious environmental consequences for this watercourse than the original problem.

    Streams and rivers increase the ability of green spaces to evacuate runoff water, particularly during intense storms or during thaw periods, thereby reducing the risk of flooding, and they help cool summer heat. They are also important as habitats for many species of plants, birds, aquatic animals and micro-organisms, and their presence contributes to the richness of biodiversity.

    Over the summer, the Eleanor London Côte Saint-Luc Public Library presented a talk on the river’s important role in the history of Montreal. A recording of this presentation is on the library’s YouTube channel.

    To making Meadowbrook an urban heritage nature park accessible for all, we now must add another wish: that the St. Pierre River flow once again on Meadowbrook, free from pollution, when the situation permits.

    The St. Pierre River in days past

    Ballad for an Urban River – more photos and song

     

    Thank you:

    Les amis du parc Meadowbrook would like to thank Fondation Rivières, GRAME, CRE-Montréal, Mouvement ceinture verte, the World Wildlife Federation, Les amis du parc Angrignon, the Sierra Club and urban history researcher Justin Bur for their support throughout this campaign.

    Special thanks also go to the cities of Côte Saint-Luc and Montreal, for their transparency.

    Saving the St. Pierre River. A new approach: legal personhood

    In our effort to save what remains of the St. Pierre River on Meadowbrook (refer to the article below), one of the last above-ground sections of this historic river, we knew we needed something new. In February 2020, the Minganie MRC and the Ekuanitshit Innu Council announced a declaration of legal personhood, with nine rights, for the Magpie River on the North Shore. We hope that we can use the same legal means to save the 200-metre section of the river that flows in our city.

    We see an imminent danger for the St. Pierre River: the section that runs across the golf course is at risk of drying up completely, following the recent Appeal Court decision prohibiting the release of any water onto the property. This would mean the death of the river.

    On April 8, Les Amis du Parc Meadowbrook’s steering committee unanimously adopted the declaration that you can read below. It states that the river shall possess nine rights: the right to exist, the right to flow, the right to freedom from pollution, respect for its natural cycles and development, the maintenance of its biodiversity, the right to perform its essential functions within its ecosystem, the maintenance of its integrity, the right to restoration and regeneration, and particularly to daylighting, and the right to defend its rights before the courts.

    The St. Pierre river in better days

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    Declaration

    We, the undersigned, declare that, like the Magpie River, which has been recognized by the regional county municipality of Minganie and the Ekuanitshit Innu Council as having legal personhood, the St. Pierre River that flows on the Meadowbrook golf course in Lachine (lot 1 292 249) and whose status has been established in the Superior Court by the Ministère de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques (Meadowbrook Groupe Pacific c. Ville de Montréal file no. 500-17-079150-135), must also be recognized as having legal personhood.

    This watercourse is one of the last visible sections of the St. Pierre River, which once flowed from Mount Royal to the St. Lawrence River opposite Nuns’ Island. The river played a role in Montreal’s early years and had a significant impact on the City’s history, through transport, agriculture, populating of the territory and industry. Urbanization and industrialization have taken their toll on the river, and it was largely buried in the sewer system.

    We therefore declare that the river shall possess the following rights:

      1. The right to exist
      2. The right to flow
      3. The right to freedom from pollution
      4. Respect for its natural cycles and development
      5. The maintenance of its biodiversity
      6. The right to perform its essential functions within its ecosystem
      7. The maintenance of its integrity
      8. The right to restoration and regeneration, and particularly to daylighting
      9. The right to defend its rights before the courts

    We declare that Montreal’s other waterways should also be granted this legal status and these rights. We also fully support the efforts of the International Observatory on the Rights of Nature to have similar status for the St. Lawrence River and its tributaries recognized by the National Assembly.

    We will act as guardians and representatives of the St. Pierre River to protect its rights.

    Signed on this 8th day of April 2021,

    Les Amis du Parc Meadowbrook


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    The St. Pierre River is one of 36 streams that once flowed across the Island of Montreal but are now buried underground. The declaration states that the other remaining waterways on the Island of Montreal should also be granted legal status and rights. We have asked our partner organizations and our supporters to join us in signing the declaration. Many have already agreed.

    We invite you to become guardians of the river and its rights. Please contact us to add your name to the declaration: lesamisdemeadowbrook@gmail.com

    Please write the mayor – We must save the St. Pierre River!

    Following a recent Quebec Court of Appeal decision concerning the St. Pierre River where it crosses the Meadowbrook golf course, Les Amis du Parc Meadowbrook is concerned about the future of the river, and it has launched a letter-writing campaign to try to save it.

    The environmental group Les Amis du Parc Meadowbrook has been working for over thirty years to preserve the green space on the Meadowbrook golf course as an urban nature heritage park, accessible to all. This 57-hectare tract of land, half of which lies in Lachine (Montreal) and half in the City of Côte Saint-Luc, is traversed by a two-hundred metre stretch of the St. Pierre River.

    Dec. 2020. Photo Nigel Dove

    The situation

    The storm sewer collector that feeds the river is contaminated by sanitary sewer cross-connections, so the court had ordered that all pollution of the river must be stopped. As of last summer, most of the water was able to be deviated from entering the golf course except during periods of heavy rain. This was already of considerable concern to us as it led to a drying up of the river through most of year, thus stressing the river ecosystem.

    A January 2021 Quebec Court of Appeal decision may seal the fate of the river. It forbids any water from the storm sewer collector, contaminated or not, from flowing on the golf course. This would in effect permanently kill the river.

    The City of Montreal recognizes the importance of rivers and streams on the Island of Montreal. In fact, in 2014, it gave nine reasons (Resolution CM14 1141) why rivers and streams should be protected, ranging from ecosystem protection to reduction in flooding, and thenunanimously adopted a motionto protect and manage existing urban rivers and create or recreate new ones.

    We believe there are solutions to the contamination of the St. Pierre River flowing through the golf course other than a permanent deviation and we are asking Montreal to find a solution.

     

    The environmental issues

    • Streams increase the capacity and available surface area to evacuate runoff water, particularly during intense storms or during thaw periods, and reduce the risk of flooding and overflows.*
    • Streams and their vegetated banks are islands of natural coolness and play an important role in the health and well-being of Montrealers.*
    • Streams are important elements of an ecosystem since they are habitats and refuges for several species, and their presence contributes to the richness of biodiversity.*
    • The water quality of the St. Lawrence and Rivière des Prairies depends on the quality of their tributaries; *
    • The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the importance of access to nature: Meadowbrook shows tremendous potential as an urban nature heritage park accessible to all.

    *an unofficial translation from the 2014 Resolution CM14 1141 referred to above

     

    The heritage significance

    Some thirty-six rivers and streams used to flow across the island of Montreal. Urbanization and industrialization caused their complete or partial disappearance.

    • The St. Pierre River had its source at the foot of Mount Royal and originally emptied into the St. Lawrence River in Verdun. At the foot of the Falaise Saint-Jacques, it formed a shallow lake, Lac Saint-Pierre or Otter Lake, where the Turcot Interchange now sits.
    • In Montreal’s early days, the river was a route across the island that avoided the Lachine Rapids; it provided water for people, crops and livestock.
    • In order to provide water power to the Sulpicians’ mills, in 1697, water from the St. Pierre River was diverted into the Petite Rivière which flowed into the St. Lawrence at Pointe à Callière. In the 19th century, the Petite Rivière was buried in the William Collector.
    • There have been several failed attempts to daylight the St. Pierre River in recent years.

     

    To learn more, please seean article on the St. Pierre Riveron our website.  Also, here isour group’s presentation about the riverprepared by Louise Legault at an international conference on daylighting rivers held in Florence, Italy, in 2020.

     

    Stand up for the river     –     Please write the mayor!

    Please write to the City of Montreal asking them to preserve the St. Pierre River in line with the sentiments expressed in the 2014 Resolution.

    We have prepared a form letter inFrenchandEnglishfor your convenience. Please rewrite or modify as you like.

    And, feel free to pass along this note to anyone you think would be interested in the issue.

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    To:    Madame Valérie Plante, Mayor of Montreal valerie.plante@montreal.ca

    Copy:

    • robert.beaudry@montreal.ca Responsible for housing, real estate strategy, large parks and parc Jean-Drapeau
    • sylvain.ouellet@montreal.ca  Responsible for water/waterworks, infrastructures, and the Commission des services électriques
    • lesamisdemeadowbrook@gmail.com for our files