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.

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