Woodstock family feels ‘landlocked’ after NB Power blocks access to woodlot

A Woodstock family can’t reach part of the woodlot it has owned for generations because NB Power is blocking access to the road. 

The McBride family has owned 30 acres, of about 12 hectares, near the Canada-U.S. border for more than 40 years but hasn’t been able to access it for the last seven months.

“My dad had it and my grandfather,” Frank McBride said. “We feel bad. We’ve always been able to access the woodlot there over the years.” 

NB Power is building a substation off Route 95 near the Canada-U.S. border as part of a project that began in 2017. The project involves the construction of an 18-kilometre power line that will bring electricity to customers in Houlton, Maine and New Brunswick.

The new substation near the Canada-U.S. border will serve customers in Maine and New Brunswick. (Kirk Pennell/CBC)

The utility said the McBrides are not allowed to access their woodlot behind the substation because the construction work makes it unsafe.   

But the McBrides rely on firewood to heat their 2½-storey home in Woodstock during the winter. Because Frank McBride can’t get to his property to chop wood, he’s spent $2,000 out of pocket on firewood since last November.

“It adds up when you’ve not budgeted for it,” he said. 

McBride said he’s had to buy four cords so far. One cord is more than 200 pieces of wood, and it takes about eight cords to heat his home in the winter. 

“Time’s marching on toward fall and winter, so we’d like to be able to get in to get our wood cut up.”

But that’s looking unlikely. 

Promised access

NB Power held a forum in Woodstock two years ago before it began the substation construction. At the forum, the McBrides said, the utility said it would make sure the family would have a road to get into the woodlot. 

“As of yet, no road, and it’s the middle of August,” McBride said. 

A map from NB Power shows where the construction of the new substation is taking place. (Kirk Pennell/CBC)

Three roads branch off Route 95 near the McBride property.

One runs parallel to the highway and is used by the McBrides to access some of their land, but not the land where they cut most of their wood. 

They can’t get to the other side of the lot by foot because of a stream.

An old federal road off Route 95 leads to the part of the woodlot where the McBrides cut wood. The family was given permission from the federal government to use the road after Route 95 was built in the late 1950s, partially cutting off the old federal road.

The McBrides have not been able to use the old road since construction started in November.

A third road off the highway leads to the substation. McBride would like to see a road built off that one and stretching behind the substation toward his woodlot. 

This dirt road leads to NB Power’s new substation. (Kirk Pennell/CBC)

McBride has taken his complaint to his local MLA’s office, which is looking into the situation. 

The latest he’s heard from NB Power is that the company will re-examine giving him access in the fall, when construction of the substation is over.

In an email to CBC News, NB Power spokesperson Marc Belliveau wouldn’t say if the McBrides will regain access when the substation is finished. He said the utility is still working on finding a solution, but he did not elaborate. 

For now, McBride said, he feels “landlocked.”