'A huge impact on our way of life': Public meeting addresses planned oyster facility

Environmental issues and property values were key points of discussion at a public meeting about a building proposed by the Raspberry Point Oyster Company on P.E.I.'s North Shore.

Raspberry Point Oyster Company says it's following all the rules

A public information meeting was held Thursday night about a proposed building from an oyster company on the North Shore. (CBC)

Environmental issues and property values were key points of discussion at a public meeting about a building proposed by the Raspberry Point Oyster Company on P.E.I.'s North Shore.

The building would be on the Grand Pere Point Road in Cymbria.

Milton Community Hall was full Thursday night with a number of people taking the floor to voice their worries about the environment, safety, traffic, and potential impact on the community such as property values. 

Company manager James Power and provincial officials were there and addressed questions from the public. 

The two-storey, 40 x 112 square-foot building would be used for oyster grading and is part of the company's work on doubling its capacity, after buying a new 80-hectare lease in Oyster Bed Bridge, which is getting turned over from mussels to oysters. Power said the new building would be connected to an existing building from the past mussel operation and will be almost identical to their facility in North Rustico.

Environmental and property value concerns

Some people brought up the matter of about 20,000 cages planned for the area. Powers responded they would be spread out over the 80 hectares, which covers only about 3.5 per cent of the area.  

Milton Community Hall was full Thursday evening for the public meeting about the proposed changes by the Raspberry Point Oyster Company. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

Brendan Boudreau, who lives in Cymbria, said he's concerned about the environment. 

"We're concerned about the environmental effects of the building and the road, the driveway that they're putting in. The fact that there doesn't seem to be an environmental assessment that's going to be done on that part of it," he said. 

Boudreau said he is also concerned about about commercial companies taking over the residential area, his property value, and sight lines being blocked. 

Oysters clean water, says company

"I have two sons that we moved to this area for a different pace of life and a different quality of life. And I think all the residents are concerned that this facility and this corporation moving is going to change that and have a huge impact on our way of life," said Boudreau.

Power said his company is following any environmental rules and any other regulations in place and said all work would be done by trained professionals. He feels there are some misconceptions about what oysters do to the water and environment. 

Proposed plan for new building for oyster company. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

"Oysters and shellfish actually clean the water. So they removed nitrogen from the water which is a building block for algae and phytoplankton which blocks the water, which kills the eel grass. So oysters actually help with that issue," he said. 

People also brought up worries about construction and the size of the building and posed the question to Power if he'd like to see the building in his front yard. The new building is planned to be six feet taller than the current one on the property. 

Water usage

Power said much of the equipment will be inside, compared to mussel operations which can do work outside. 

"For an oyster company, for us, we keep all that gear inside so that's going to reduce the noise, reduce the unsightliness of some of the gear."

Cymbria resident Brendan Boudreau is concerned about potential impacts on the environment with the proposal of a new building. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

Power also said about 1,100 litres of water would be used per day for the operation, addressing worries about the water table from people who are on well water in the area. He said that amount of water would be equal to what three average people would use per day in Canada. The latest numbers from Statistics Canada backs that up with the average Canadian using 466 litres on average per person per day. 

"So in our estimation, I mean that's very low impact," said Power.

"There is fresh water that's going to be put back into the bay, but considering the size of the bay, it's a very, very small amount of water," said Power.   

Lease size staying same

He also said the size of the lease on the water is exactly the same as the mussel lease that was there before so there's no expanding in the water.   

Now the company is in a holding pattern until a decision is made on the building permit. Power said his company is willing to keep talking with residents about the project. 

Pam Large Moran, a homeowner in Cymbria, attended the meeting and said there was good open discussion, but believes there are still more questions to be answered. 

James Power addressed concerns at the public meeting and said oysters could help the bay because they clean water by reducing algae. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

"My hope, and I think others' hope, is that we continue to get some more information, continue to have a positive communication and relationship with the company," she said. 

"I think it's again too soon to really see what we would like the ultimate outcome to be until we get further information, but in terms of the discussion process and the information process I think for that to continue and for things not to be rushed."   

The current deadline to submit comments to the province is March 23, but people at the meeting asked for an extension noting that many people in the area are seasonal residents. Provincial officials said they would take extending the comment period into consideration. After the meeting they said now their job is to do more review, but said they do need to make the next move in the process in a reasonable time frame. 

Provincial officials say once a decision is made people would still have the opportunity to appeal the decision through the Island Regulatory Appeals Commission.

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About the Author

Krystalle Ramlakhan is a multi-platform journalist with CBC Ottawa. She has also worked for CBC in P.E.I., Winnipeg and Iqaluit.