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Teknika HBA was given a mandate, and, apparently, over $150,000 dollars of our tax money, to create an action plan for dealing with Brome Lake and the annual problems of blue green algae that close the lake to the detriment of businesses in the area who depend on tourism as a major source of income.
When the Town announced last year that the comprehensive report would be created by Teknika, a long time partner in designing and implementing engineering projects in Lac Brome and other municipalities in Quebec, people were at least heartened to know that at least something was going to be done.
Of course it could be argued that doing reports and studies is somewhat of an old-school type approach of dealing with a problem by not really dealing with the problem. Some folks in town are grumbling that this is just plain old politics and proceeding with an expensive study with Teknika is just a way to get tax dollars back into the old boys network. Guffaws erupted when Teknika released a separate report on motor boats early this Summer that actually used references from a newspaper story available on the Internet, not exactly a scientific source, leading some incredulous residents to ask themselves how people can let the wool toques get pulled so far over their eyes by this company of so-called "experts".
Now as we wait for this new "action plan" some people are wondering what exactly we're in for. One thing for certain this report is way overdue making some people believe that this is turning into a much more costly undertaking along the same way as many tax funded projects start costing more and more and we all know that just like the Olympic Stadium, once projects get started they are rarely stopped for any reason.
I'm not sure about you but if my boss asks me to do something within a certain time-frame and within a certain budget and I don't come through I should expect to be fired. But as some cynics love to point out, in this case Teknika can drag their heels as much as they want, who would fire them? Whenever tax dollars are involved you can be sure that someone is looking for a way to get more; look at the Sponsorship scandals and how a lot of firms got juicy contracts and certain "friends" enjoyed the steady flow of tax money. Of course no-one is suggesting this sort of political favoritism is happening here but citizens and taxpayers have a right to know when this report is going to be presented! The delays keep coming and we are supposed to sit by and just nod our heads and say "whatever" as if our elected officials can do whatever they want with our tax money and our future?
Troubling also to some people is the fact that in 2001 the Quebec Government actually published an "action plan" regarding concrete measures that needed to be taken to save Brome Lake with the warning that it was critical to start now (2001) because improvements would take up to 7 years. Looking over the published data it seems that many of the recommendations were ignored by Towns around the lake yet now the approach is to do another study...and this study by Teknika HBA is now officially MIA!
The media spent the summer making blue green algae a front page sensational story and even the latest edition of the Brome COunty News shows an unflattering picture of the sick Lake Waterloo with a cheeky cut line relating to the fall colors of Autumn! Ouch! The media has made this issue the flavor of the week and stories and photos of closed lakes have been popular all season.
Our own Town has been featured many times doing press conferences where the mayor and the representative from Teknika appeared together in solidarity to underline their commitment to action and results. Perfect! The Town announced an action plan in June. That's what we want to see but so far we have only witnessed the progress on an artificial reef of golf balls being constructed in Brome Lake as the main inspiration of the town seems to be holding a series of pay-to-hit-the-mayor golf ball target practices on the shores of Brome Lake.
Some rabble rousers have posed the question: Won't a rapid influx of golf balls in the lake cause disruption of the sediments that could release algae causing nutrients? We're not sure but some scallywags have suggested that perhaps the Teknika report will actually include regular "golf ball interaction" with the lake's thermocline to help dissipate the phosphate conditions that lead to blue green algae.
But let's try and put the hypothesis and nonsense aside for a moment. Yesterday, Line "The Pihrana" Beauchamp, Quebec's environment minister, announced a 35 step plan for dealing with blue green algae and environmental issues that have plagued our lakes. So if the government released guidelines and plans over 5 years ago and then this week announced plans on how millions would be spent on dealing with the problems in our lakes how is it acceptable that we would give a tidy little gift of $150,000 to an engineering firm who specializes in old-school concrete environments to develop an action plan for our lake?
Isn't the government already doing the action plan, beyond what they did over 5 years ago? Now, Line "The Pihrana" Beauchamp seems to be biting full-on into the problem so where is Teknika with our report and with our money? Some people at the gas pump say that Teknika was waiting for the Government to release their plan so they could ensure that the plan they were preparing jived with the gist of the government line.
This summer the government said we had to close Brome Lake and then we found out that we closed the lake for no reason. The Town said we had no choice, and that even though they knew things were ok with the lake, they had to do what the government says. So why, some folks ask, do we toss a few hundred thousand dollars to a firm to do an action plan if in the end the Liberal Quebec government really decides what goes?
Word on the street is that we will be seeing a big press release shortly from Teknika HBA and Town of Brome Lake now that the Provincial Government has started laying out remediation plans for Quebec lakes and the new $150,000 action-plan will parallel many of the suggested government actions. And if not, there are those who say that the recommendations in the Teknika report will simply require further studies and further tax funding to come up with a plan that could be similar to doing road repairs; do it right like in Ontario and it will last for 20 years or do it like in Quebec and you will create 20 years of jobs for repairmen.
The Quebec Government, no matter how deeply you hold them in contempt, have at least been able to deliver their reports in a timely matter. As for Teknika...this is another delay that many people feel is proof that someone made a very bad decision with our money.
What do you think about the Town of Brome Lake Action Plan and the Teknika HBA report that has not yet been delivered? Visit the DK Forum!
This isn't the first time DK has discussed Teknika. Visit our previous opinionated posts:
June 2007: Teknika report delayed yet again
April 2007: Is Teknika missing the boat
February 2007: Action plan or fantasy land