The extension of Autoroute 25 in Lanaudière was announced by the Legault government in September 2020.
The extension of Highway 25 in Lanaudière, announced by the Legault government in September 2020, will result in the cutting of hundreds of trees, in addition to causing a “loss of biodiversity at the local and regional scale “, in the opinion of the Ministère des Transports du Québec.
The environmental impacts of the transformation of Route 125 into a four-lane national road, between the municipalities of Saint -Esprit and Sainte-Julienne, are thus described in a notice published on Wednesday.
The planned works involve the widening of the existing road over a distance of 9.2 kilometers and a width of 90 meters.
However, in the same place as that targeted by the planned enlargement, indicates Annex IV of the ministerial document, there is a rare forest called Saint-Esprit de Montcalm.
The region also includes a forest refuge of threatened or vulnerable species which will be crossed by the right-of-way of the national road, further mentions the MTQ.
Already, last spring, citizens of the region were mobilizing to try to prevent the project from going ahead. And, at the same time, these residents wanted to repeal Bill 66, or An Act respecting the acceleration of certain infrastructure projects, which makes it possible to reduce the delays associated with an environmental assessment.
The A-25 extension project is part of this law adopted in December 2020.
Also in its opinion on the work to widen Route 125, the MTQ specifies that measures will be adopted to avoid damaging the sensitive [environmental] areas identified; however, the report points out that some areas will have to be deforested or filled in, causing permanent losses.
In fact, the work should lead to the cutting of more than 880 trees with precarious conservation status, including 779 black maples, the notice still reads.
“It is possible that this will cause the degeneration in the more or less short term of the exceptional forest ecosystem. »
— Excerpt from the MTQ notice on the extension of the A-25 in Lanaudière
In addition, the MTQ is considering a loss of efficiency in agricultural operations along the current Route 125 between Saint-Esprit and Sainte-Julienne. The widening of the road and its transformation into a national road will in fact eliminate strips of arable land located on either side of the existing road. While the ministry claims to have owned the rights-of-way since 1975, subsequently leasing the land to farmers, it also recognizes that it is impossible to compensate for these losses, unless, for example, the feeding of animals belonging to the herders or to acquire other plots of land.
However, the MTQ report estimates that the impact of extending the A-25 will ultimately have a positive impact, whether by reducing congestion and decreasing through traffic in nearby urban areas, or by increasing user safety.
The A-25 extension project follows on from the adoption, in December 2020, of of the Act respecting the acceleration of certain infrastructure projects, which reduces the time required for an environmental assessment.
At the other end of the line, Marc-André Viau, director of government relations at Équiterre, reveals a certain fatigue, even exasperation about the apprehended impacts of the extension of the A-25.
This is about the fourth or fifth time [the government] has announced it since the fall of 2020, so we're not really surprised. We have seen it in the different sections: it is either loss of agricultural land or loss of forest cover. Every time we destroy these environments, we lose the functions of these systems, he says.
“Each time, it's a little bit, here and there, but by adding up the little bits, you end up with large pieces of territory that no longer fulfill the ecosystem roles that x27;they must fill. »
— Marc-André Viau, Director of Government Relations at Équiterre
As Mr. Viau mentions, government commitments to compensate for environmental losses or to carry out carbon-neutral projects can never completely offset the environmental impacts of road works.
I react as always: do we really need to carry out these motorway extensions? Especially since we know that these extensions will lead to other highway extensions, because once this work has been done, we will be doing residential, industrial and commercial development on other wetlands. And these places will be congested and saturated because we will not have densified the dwellings. And we will therefore have to go even further, with even more roads and highways, he said.
Marc-André Viau denounces, at the same time, the absence of a clear policy aimed at overseeing land use planning in Quebec.