Ten years after a unique wetland near Jubilee Parkway was destroyed, city council has approved a remediation plan that involves property as compensation as well as the recreation of a portion of the wetland.
The compensation/restoration plan totals 3.8 hectares and was approved by city council at its Monday meeting in an effort to address 2.2 ha of wetlands disturbed by Parkway Properties Ltd. during development of a subdivision on the opposite, northern side of Jubilee. The 3.8 ha represents a 2:1 compensation ratio (which was based on literature and best practices) for 1.9 ha of fen that cannot be remediated or recreated.
The fen wetland, which is a type of peat land, was infilled with mineral soils between 2006 and 2012 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.
But in 2014 a citizen’s complaint prompted the city to launch an investigation. The city determined that a fen wetland had been disturbed and the hydrology in the area altered. Parkway was issued a remedial action notice, ordering Parkway to fix what was ruined.
On Monday, nearly three years after the remedial action notice was first presented to Parkway, council came to a decision on a remediation plan that Parkway will need to abide by.
That plan includes restoring 0.54 ha of two endangered trembling aspen forested wetlands on the perimeter of the former fen wetland, as well as compensation in the form of 2.1 ha of forested land owned by Parkway to the west of the wetlands. The forest land is adjacent to Woods Creek and a wetland riparian area complex.
Terri Martin, the city’s environmental specialist, said city staff feel those lands are fair compensation.
“We do believe those forest lands are of some value,” Martin said. “They are fragmented and they do help to support the wetland and creek nearby. We think there’s value there.”
As part of the remediation order, Parkway will also have to recreate 1.16 ha of wetland, albeit not a fen wetland.
Martin said that although Parkway’s QEP, McElhanney, submitted a report to the city recommending recreating all 2.2 ha of disturbed fen, city staff, in consultation with its own QEP, Cascadia Biological Services and other QEPs, came to the conclusion that such action is just too difficult.
“There are a number of outstanding concerns with fen creation over the northern portion that appear to be unreasonable,” Martin said. “It’s quite complicated to create a fen. We felt that with the two to three years of data collection to see if they could recreate those conditions, and the long distance expertise, made it challenging.
“It wouldn’t be a fen, but it would still provide some wetland functions.”
Parkway said in a written statement to the Mirror on Wednesday that it’s pleased the city has put forward an amenable solution.
“We are satisfied with the revised Remedial Action Requirement solution that has been recommended to, and accepted by council,” wrote Dan Samson, president of Parkway Properties, on behalf of Parkway. “The company has been trying to resolve the issue ever since (the citizen’s complaint in early 2014).
“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 forward to 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.”
Not everyone’s happy
Prior to making a decision on the wetlands, council on Monday received a letter from Cynthia Bendickson, expressing her disappointment with the remediation plan.
Bendickson, who is an employee of Greenways Land Trust – a local environmental organization that has previously urged the city to request Parkway recreate the fen wetland – wrote her letter in a personal capacity but the message was the same.
“I am disappointed in the approach taken by city staff,” Bendickson wrote. “One of the ecosystem functions that the Jubilee fen provided was biological diversity in the form of rare species and ecological communities. In my opinion, this was the most important ecological function of the site. It seems unfair to the environment and our community that after the illegal infilling of a wetland, which contained ancient red-listed ecological communities, we will likely end up with the protection of two relatively common ecosystem types – second-growth forest and a mineral-based wetland.”
Fen was unique
Martin acknowledged that the Jubilee wetland, which was one of the top 20 mapped within the city, was one of the 10 largest wetlands in Campbell River.
She also noted that it was isolated, or not connected by surface flow, from a stream or river system “thus providing unique and vital habitat.”
But, she added, the recreation of the wetland, albeit not be a fen, will still provide wetland functions, such as refuge for birds and other organisms.
Martin said that in the end, “it was a very tough call” and a “fairly long and complicated process.”
- 2006-2014: Parkway moves soil onto the wetlands, disturbing 2.2 ha of fen.
- 2014: Citizen files a complaint and the city launches an investigation.
- July 2015: City of Campbell River issues a Remedial Action Requirement to Parkway.
- Oct. 2015: The first deadline the city gives to Parkway to come up with a remedial action plan.
- Nov. 30, 2015: A second deadline arrives and a plan is submitted by QEP McElhanney recommending turning the fen into a grassy meadow.
- Dec. 2, 2015: The provincial government advises Parkway that it has opened an investigation into Parkway’s actions.
- December, 2015: Council shoots down the grassy meadow option and gives Parkway a new deadline of March 15, 2016 to come up with a new remediation plan.
- March 4, 2016: Province sends an advisory letter to the city on its findings that Parkway has contravened the provincial Water Act by making changes in and about a stream without lawful authority and by failing to report damage to a stream. Province requests ‘like for like’ or ‘as close as possible’ compensation and that total compensated lands will exceed the damage done.
- March, 2016: McElhanney submits a new remedial action plan to the city, with three different options.
- May, 2016: City continues to mull over the options but says it needs more information.
- June, 2016: There is an impasse as the parties cannot agree on compensation for the lost fen.
- July, 2016: McElhanny issues another remedial action plan, this time suggesting that the entire area of disturbed fen could be feasibly recreated, though the recovery schedule could take 12 to 13 years.
- September, 2016: Parkway tells city council it would prefer to offer up its forested lands as compensation in lieu of recreating the fen which they say there is no guarantee will be successful.
- December, 2016: City council approves remedial action that involves forest land compensation, recreation of non-fen wetland, as well as retaining a portion of wetland not disturbed.