Star forum — By Ray Broughton
Dear editor: The purpose of this letter is to bring immediate attention to the matter concerning the removal of a bridge by Nalcor near the town of Howley that may transpire quickly without intervention or review by proper authorities.
There is a bridge located approximately 18 kilometres from Howley on an extremely well-travelled roadway known by many as the “Hinds Lake Road.”
The bridge was originally installed by Corner Brook Pulp and Paper about two decades ago. Since that time, many interest groups made good use of this area, via this particular bridge which crosses over Hinds Brook, the brook used by Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro for release of excessive water flow for the Hinds Lake Reservoir during high water levels.
This bridge remained in excellent condition until two years ago during the early summer when we received a period of heavy rains which, caused Hydro to release excessive amounts of water from the reservoir, causing the bridge to be washed out. At that time, we communicated with Hydro and they graciously agreed to replace the bridge with a higher and newer type structure.
Again late last fall, there was an excessive release of water from the reservoir, which did cause some erosion from one of the supports.
Instead of assessing the damage and estimating repairs for the bridge, Nalcor appears to be attempting to remove the bridge completely with no plans of an alternate route or crossing. Without permission from Hydro to pass directly over the Hinds Lake dam itself, there is no other passage available for the public to be able to access the area the bridge once provided access to.
This area has been open for access for several decades and has become a haven for many interest groups in the area. Some in particular include local hunters, berry pickers, nature enthusiasts, ATV operators, snowmobilers (recognized route by the Newfoundland and Labador Snowmobile Federation, outfitters and trappers.
This bridged crossing has even been recognized and incorporated in the route for the snowmobile federation.
Many hunters from the Howley, Deer Lake, Corner Brook and surrounding areas apply for moose/caribou licenses for this area, which is known as Moose Management Area 12 Buchans. In actual fact, the bridge in question is the very boundary where this MMA12 begins its border. Without this bridge, all of the hunters who have applied for this area and were successfully awarded licenses, would not be able to access this area should this bridge be removed.
There are also two outfitters from the Howley area that use this roadway to access their commercial camps and without this bridge, would have to resort to commercial helicopter transportation, which is quite costly and would most definitely have a negative impact on the business for those camps.
Between both outfitters, I would estimate the number of people seasonably employed would represent 12-15 people and translate into a great deal of revenue for the Howley and Deer Lake area through travel accommodations, and employment.
Another major area of interest is the tourism, which is generally located through the use of this well-established trail system from Howley to Buchans via the Hinds Brook Bridge.
Each year, thousands of ATV operators and snowmobilers use this trail system and generate much needed tourism, dollars which in turn create employment through supplying such things as fuel, groceries, accommodations and other mechanical services which all add up to keeping small towns such as Howley alive.
The latest bridge at Hind’s Brook is only two years old and — with just some simple repairs — has the ability to continue to provide surrounding areas such as Howley and Buchans with at least 20 years of spin-offs from the local tourism the roadway generates each year.
For the Department of Natural resources to allow the removal of this bridge would have a serious negative impact on several businesses in the area and financially cripple an already struggling town.
We need your support to communicate the importance of this bridge to the local area and help all parties work together to find a solution. We are willing to provide whatever support we can to ensure this bridge remains in place and are open to any and all communications from Hydro and any other parties involved.
Thank you for your help and co-operation.
Ray Broughton, owner/operator, Ray’s Hunting and Fishing Lodge