LUSHES BIGHT-BEAUMONT-BEAUMONT NORTH, NL — There is hope a causeway could someday connect Long Island to insular Newfoundland, and the area’s mayor hopes discussions could ramp up in 2018.
The amalgamated community of Lushes Bight-Beaumont-Beaumont North is on Long Island, located in Norte Dame Bay. The community is accessible only by a short ferry ride from Pilley’s Island, part of the longer route to Little Bay Islands. With resettlement talks ongoing for its neighbouring island, Mayor Daniel Veilleux hopes discussions about a causeway to Long Island will resume.
He acknowledges those discussions are likely hinging on whether Little Bay Islands will be resettled.
The 2016 resettlement vote of Little Bay Islands fell short of the 90 per cent required approval by just percentage points. The process is currently under assessment, with decisions to be made about how many of the island’s 95 eligible voters are actually full-time residents and how that should factor into the vote.
Another vote will likely occur in 2018. If the vote is for resettlement, Veilleux says he will then push hard for a causeway to be erected to Long Island — likely starting with a cost analysis. The mayor already has an opinion on the financial implications of such a project.
“I was a businessman when I was working, and sometimes you have to spend money to save money,” he said. “A four-year return on your money, I think that is well-spent money.
“Normally, you would take 10, 20, or 30 years to get your money back. It is actually less than four years.”
The mayor says the ferry’s annual operating cost is more than $4 million per year, not including such expenses as refits and maintenance. If it costs $30 million to erect a causeway, for example, the federal government would be expected to pay half since the 503-metre structure would run over a waterway.
That would leave some $15 million for the province to pay — an investment that would be recouped in less than four years, according to the mayor, given the savings from not operating the MV Hazel McIssac any longer.
The ferry service has been another sore spot for the town and its residents because of cancellations due to weather, occasional mechanical problems and other factors. This year, Veilleux was in the media claiming nearly $70,000 of provincial funding for a paving project went unused because of complications with the ferry service.
Last week, the mayor didn’t want to discuss issues the town has had with the service and some of the crew of the ferry. He said things have improved, and the town is trying to maintain a positive relationship.
He said the six-year-old Hazel McIsaac would be an asset for the province that could be used elsewhere.
Veilleux says he has been dealing with the last three Transportation and Works ministers on the issue, and most recently spoke with minister Steve Crocker at the Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador annual general meeting in Corner Brook. He also had discussions with Municipal Affairs Minister Eddie Joyce, he said. Those discussions were positive, according to the mayor, but no commitments were exchanged.
“I understand the financial point, and they say they will not do anything for a causeway until Little Bay Islands resettles,” he said. “There’s no point in putting a causeway to Long Island and still have a ferry for Little Bay Islands. There would be no cost-saving at all.”
Veilleux said there are 110 households in Lushes Bight-Beaumont-Beaumont North. There are no discussions for resettlement for the island. At the estimated $270,000-per household, resettlement would run close to $30 million — something he does not consider a viable option. He also said residents of Long Island do not want to resettle.
“We are not going anywhere,” he said. “There are always one or two there for the money, but it is only a five-minute crossing and about half an hour from the Trans-Canada Highway, so we are not really isolated.”
There were 44,500 passenger crossings in the year 2015-2016, according to the mayor, showing the location is commonly used. He said it is a popular tourism destination, something he suspects would increase significantly with a causeway rather than a ferry.
“Our island is pretty on the go,” he said. “We are definitely not dying.”
Scott Simms, member of parliament for Coast of Bays-Central-Notre Dame, said the conversation would hold more merit if Little Bay Islands does resettle.
He confirmed that, under federal funding regulations, a causeway would be eligible for infrastructure funding under Phase 1. However, he said the province has to make it a priority.
“That discussion has to be held primarily between the provincial government and the municipality,” Simms told the Nor’wester. “Then, both would come to us if they feel it is a priority.”
Simms said he has only heard the reasons for a causeway, and has not weighed them against any reasons why it could not happen.
“I am not an engineer, nor do I know if it will affect the commercial fishery in any way, shape or form,” he said. “I have only heard rumors to that point.”
An official cost analysis would be significant in determining whether a causeway could be erected, the MP said.
Simms said he has discussed the causeway idea with Veilleux and Brian Warr, MHA for Baie Verte-Green Bay. He would be interested in continuing such discussions.
Despite numerous requests and correspondence from the Nor’wester to the Department of Transportation and Works, an interview with Minister Crocker was not granted nor was any information on the issue provided.