Sea-to-Sky highway project has more critics than just Fisheries
and Oceans Canada, Habitat Enhancement Branch. Some residents
of West Vancouver are extremely concerned over the impact
changes in the traffic flow will have on their community.
They would be joined by users of the Horseshoe Bay ferry
terminal if they had the slightest idea what is being proposed.
of alternative alignments for a tunnel that would bypass
the ferry terminal is available on the Environmental
Assessment Office website. The map and the correspondence
between West Vancouver and the project's engineer confirm
the concerns raised by local residents. The proposed tunnel
would just serve northward bound traffic. Local vehicular
access to Highway 99 North, including access by vehicles
departing ferries, would be denied, forcing that traffic
to detour to Eagleridge or Caulfield in order to access
communities north of Horseshoe Bay. The detour would add
approximately 10 minutes each way; a delay could be disastrous
for emergency vehicles. It would also add 20 minutes travel
time, round trip, for children attending Gleneagles School
from Lion's Bay - just so that occasional visitors to Whistler
can save 20 minutes.
dated November 5, 2003, from the SNC-Lavlain Inc. engineer
acting behalf of the Ministry of Transportation to the Director
of Engineering and Transportation for the City of West Vancouver
begins by saying "The design of the project is evolving,
as we seek to continually improve and refine concepts. The
project is quite challenging from a schedule perspective
and it is important for us to continue to move forward to
meet the project objectives." Those words paint
a frightening picture. It looks like the maximum budget
of $670 million was set for the project, and the design
team must now sacrifice safety, the environment and community
concerns, if necessary, so as to bring the project in on
time and on budget; it is no wonder that DFO complained
that it doesn't have enough information to access the projects
impact on the environment. "Project objectives"
should include satisfactory resolution of the concerns that
are being raised.
discussing delays in emergency response times, the Ministry
of Transportation's contracted engineer wrote "This
is an area where the project team will make improvements
to the couplet concept presented in the Project Application.
Clearly we want to reduce the impacts to both emergency
response and local mobility between Horseshoe Bay and the
southern Howe Sound communities and we are working hard
to develop solutions, which we will discuss with the District."
He went on to suggest that relocating emergency services
might be one solution!
possible solutions to issues raised by the community, the
engineer's letter serves to confirm the importance of the
concerns. The letter addressed concerns that the project
will negatively impact the Larsen Creek watershed when it
said "With respect to upper Larsen Creek, we are confident
that by adjusting the location of the north tunnel portal
northward, possibly by extending the length of the tunnel
to about 1.4 km, we can avoid impacts to the Larsen Creek
watershed." That also means that if the tunnel remains
as originally proposed, there will be a negative impact
to the watershed. Nothing is finalized with respect to the
length of the tunnel. West Vancouver prefers a 3 km tunnel
with two way traffic in both the tunnel and on the old highway.
time for the Campbell government to articulate the "project's
objectives" and to offer assurance that those objectives
include more than building the cheapest possible highway
so as to speed traffic to Whistler.
Design an Environmental Hazard
more than $600 million Sea-to-Sky highway project may be crucial,
in some people's minds, for the 2010 Olympics, but its construction
is fraught with environmental risks. On November 10 the 10
page letter dated October 24, 2003, from Fisheries and Oceans
Canada, Habitat Enhancement Branch (CFO-HEB), was posted to
information centre webpage for BC's Environmental Assessment
Office. The letter begins by saying that the federal agency
has reviewed the Sea-to-Sky Highway Improvement project application
dated August 2003 and that "DFO-HEB has a number of major
concerns with the application. As explained in our July 30,
2003 screening of the application response to Environmental
Assessment Office, DFO-HEB recommended that the application
be rejected as it does not give appropriate and meaningful
treatment to the project's terms of reference."
(emphasis in original)
to the DFO letter, the federal agency had a "lengthy,
detailed discussion" with BC's Ministry of Transportation,
and their engineering and environmental consultants on May
2, 2003, during which DFO explained that it will only authorize
alteration, disruption and destruction (HADD) "if the
proponent can provide compelling technical rationale
why" the options of relocation or redesign are "impossible
or impractical". (emphasis in original) The strongly
worded letter criticizes the Ministry of Transportation for
ignoring its comments, and goes into specific detail on what
it believes are many threats to fish habitat posed by the
project. Concerns range from acid rock drainage to the consequences
of disturbing water flows in an area that is subject to intense
by creek the DFO letter lists deficiencies in the project's
application before the Environmental Assessment Office. The
Mashiter Spawning Channel, Meigham Creek and side channel,
Thurderbird Creek, Newport Creek and Hop Ranch Creek are found
between Centennial Way and Deport Road near Squamish. According
to the DFO letter those streams "collectively form a
highly productive and complex wetland ecosystem which is one
of the most important salmonid rearing areas in the Sea to
Sky corridor, yet the application does not give any specific
information on the culvert extension designs".
points to inconsistencies in the Ministry of Transportation's
application with respect to the impact of the expanded highway
on population growth along the corridor. In one section of
the application the Ministry argues that growth rates will
have only minor significance, but in the "project rational"
and "need for the project" sections of the application
DFO argues that the Ministry has affirmed "that the project
is needed to accommodate the increasing pressure for urban
development, high profile recreation and the 2010 Winter Olympics."
that claims made by the Ministry lack quantitative analysis.
The letter says that DFO "does not concur with the conclusion
that the indirect effects of this project will be of minor
government has given itself draconian powers to sweep away
labour standards, municipal zoning and bylaws and anything
else it may consider to be red tape, but even its "Significant
Projects Streamline Act" draws the line at the Environmental
Assessment Act and its regulations by allowing that Act
to prevail over what some have called the equivalent of a
War Measures Act. In view of the considerable concerns
regarding the negative impacts of the expanded highway on
fish habitat, environmental advocates will need to be alert
to see whether the Campbell government attempts to force the
project through without relocation, redesign or mitigation.