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Restoration of destroyed Campbell River wetlands could get underway this summer

Parkway Properties is offering this forested land to the west of the damaged Jubilee wetlands as a form of compensation for what the developers believe cannot be remediated.  - Kristen Douglas/Mirror file photo
Parkway Properties is offering this forested land to the west of the damaged Jubilee wetlands as a form of compensation for what the developers believe cannot be remediated.
— image credit: Kristen Douglas/Mirror file photo

The city and the property owners who damaged sensitive wetlands south of Jubilee Parkway have confirmed a plan to restore the infilled wetland starting as early as this summer.

The solution, which involves restoration as well as compensation to the city, meets provincial restoration requirements and has been agreed upon by both the city and owner/developer, Parkway Properties.

Terri Martin, the city’s environmental specialist, said the city intends to keep the lines of communication open with both the property owners and the public as the restoration work unfolds.

“Staff’s approach is to work with Parkway Properties in a transparent and results oriented fashion to have a complete development permit package in place in time to meet the 2017 summer work window,” Martin said. “Staff had a positive meeting with Parkway Properties to discuss the framework and all are agreed to this direction.”

Martin wrote in a report to council that the city met with Daniel Smallacombe, the Campbell River field unit supervisor for the provincial government, on Jan. 13 and “he was supportive of the compensation/restoration solution endorsed by council, noting we’ve come a long way.”

In December, council approved a restoration and compensation plan that includes the creation of 1.16 hectares of non-fen wetland in roughly the same location as the original 2.2 ha of wetland that was disturbed by Parkway. The damage occurred between 2006 and 2012 when the wetland a type of peat land was infilled with mineral soils as developers worked on a potential extension of Willow Creek Road across Jubilee Parkway to the site in question in order to facilitate development.

Parkway maintains that it believed the fen was simply another pocket of glacial till that wouldn’t drain, similar to what the developers had encountered previously in the same general area.

Parkway has since taken full responsibility for the damage and will restore 0.52 ha of the original fen in order to comply with the Provincial Water Act, as well as retain 0.54 ha of two existing endangered trembling aspen forested wetlands on the perimeter of the former fen wetland.

To make up for the 1.9 ha that the city accepts cannot be restored to fen land, Parkway is giving the city 2.1 ha of forest land that it owns on the west side of the property and that borders the Woods Creek wetland complex.

Parkway told the Mirror in December that it’s pleased with the solution both parties have agreed to.

“We are satisfied with the revised Remedial Action Requirement solution that has been recommended to, and accepted by council,” said Dan Samson, president of Parkway Properties, on behalf of the group. “The company has been trying to resolve the issue ever since (the issue first came to light in early 2014 via a citizen’s complaint).

“Nearly three years later, and after an investment of approximately $200,000 in reports and studies, the city and ourselves have agreed to complete a plan which includes Parkway Properties protecting the remaining fen, establishing a replacement wetland in the area that was filled, and providing additional compensation by protecting 20 acres (8.1 ha) of existing forest and adjoining wetlands within the 120 acre (48.6 ha) property that have important environmental and community amenity attributes.”

Samson said Parkway hopes to be able to put the issue behind them and look towards the future.

“We believe that the proposed plan is consistent with the city policies of protecting community environmental values and with our history of being strong community supporters,” Samson said. “We are now looking forward to continuing with the development of our lands and providing needed residential housing for our community.”

Meanwhile, Martin said the city, along with Parkway, is working on a communications strategy in order to keep the community informed as the process unfolds, rather than having to rely on Freedom of Information reports which have been filed on a number of occasions by at least one citizen, a local environmental organization and the Mirror.

“This transparency should help to alleviate public frustration with the Freedom of Information process and keep the community informed on a regular basis,” Martin said.

Ron Neufeld, the city’s general manager of operations and deputy city manager, confirmed that the city will be monitoring Parkway’s progress in order to keep the community up-to-date.

“The province is relying on the city to manage the restoration process, and staff’s work with Parkway Properties will continue to be transparent, results-oriented and science-based,” Neufeld said. “We have a detailed timeline worked out, with regular check-ins with the property owner to get us to a completed development permit package in time to meet the 2017 summer window for the restoration work to begin.

“The upfront process of defining conservation targets and the key ecological attributes to be measured, is a transparent process that helps everyone understand what choices are being made and why. And, together, we will regularly report out on the restoration project’s progress.”

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