|Thamnophis butleri,(Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources)|
A tender to build a new Windsor (Ontario, Canada) fire station has been cancelled.
A species at risk will delay the construction of the new Fire Station No. 5, proposed on the northeast corner of Daytona Avenue and Northwood Street, one block east of Huron Church Road.
City engineer Mario Sonego said the Butler's garter snake could live in the area and further environmental assessment must be completed before the project can move forward.
“The Ministry of Natural Resources indicated there is a species at risk issue we have to study and take care of. That’s going to delay us a few months,” Sonego told CBC Windsor's Lisa Xing on Tuesday.
According to Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources, the only place in the world where Butler’s garter snake is found is in the lower Great Lakes region.
The snake is concentrated in two areas: within 10 kilometers of the Detroit River, Lake St. Clair, the St. Clair River, and Lake Huron from Amherst Point to Errol, in Essex and Lambton counties; and in Luther Marsh, Dufferin and Wellington counties.
The City of Windsor had planned to decommission three fire stations and build two new ones by Dec. 31 for $9 million.
A new Station No. 5 is planned at Northwood Street and Daytona Avenue and a new Station No. 2 is to be built at Milloy Street and Chandler Road. They are part of a restructuring plan designed to offset the cost of an arbitrator’s ruling that awarded Windsor firefighters a 15-per-cent wage increase and reduced their weekly hours of work from 48 to 42.
Sonego said the possibility of Butler’s garter snakes in the area came as a surprise.
“We didn’t think it was going to be an issue of species at risk. But the MNR says we need to deal with it,” he said. “We wouldn’t have put a tender out if we knew we’d have to cancel it.”
The fire hall site is near a portion of the new Herb Gray Parkway, which also had to deal with Butler’s Garter Snakes.
In 2010, a colony of Butler’s garter snakes was found less than one kilometer away from the site of the proposed fire station. The snakes were found southwest of where E.C. Row meets Huron Church Road and the Herb Gray Parkway veers off to the west.
According to the Herb Gray Parkway’s website, constructors relocated more than 400 Eastern Fox snakes and Butler’s Garter snakes to protected Tallgrass Prairie sites away from the parkway site.
Parkway constructors also relocated approximately 3,804 square meters of Tallgrass Prairie vegetation, which the Butler’s Garter Snake calls home.
Sonego remains confident the fire hall will get done.
“The fire hall is still going to go there. Some people think it’s cancelling the whole project, but that’s not the case,” he said. “There are very few things that can cancel a whole project. We just have to make the proper compensation and the project will move forward.
“Certainly, regulations are getting more complicated and certainly species at risk are very complicated and cumbersome. But it’s not going to stop the project.”
Sonego said the project just has “to be done responsibly.”
He said “a qualified, certified biologist will do the work” to determine if the snake is in the area.
Sonego said a new timeline for completion is being worked on.
Cathy Beaten lives near the Fire Station No. 5 on Cabana Road. Her mom lives next door to the hall. Beaten wants it to stay put.
Beaten said she's "praying" the Ministry of Natural Resources finds Butler's garter snakes.
"I want them to stay. I’m praying they stay. I don’t want them to leave," Beaten said. "It’s such an asset to our community."