Group demands action on damaged Campbell River wetland

A Campbell River environmental organization says it has received deafening silence from council on status of remediation plans

A Campbell River environmental organization says deafening silence from council on the status of damaged wetlands off Jubilee Parkway suggests council has “ignored” advice from its city staff.

As deadlines given to the developers responsible for the damage have come and gone, Greenways Land Trust has been trying to get information from the city but to no avail.

“No information about this issue has been made publicly available since Dec. 2, 2015,” wrote Greenways President Sandra Milligan, on behalf of the organization, to city council. “We ask council to release information.”

Parkway Properties Joint Venture, which has taken responsibility for damage caused by the movement of soil during the development of the Maryland subdivision, has previously told council that none of the parties involved had any ill intentions.

Dan Samson, president of Parkway, told council last year that the developers thought the area in question was simply a depression with poor drainage, similar to a wetland in the Maryland subdivision that the city had approved for elimination during the first phase of the subdivision construction.

As it turned out, the movement of soil, which began in 2007 and ended in early 2014, resulted in the disturbance of 2.2 hectares of fen – a marshy area of land that frequently floods. The disturbance altered the local hydrology, including lowering the water table.

The city gave the developers a deadline of March, 2016 to submit a remediation report after extending an original October, 2015 deadline last September.

But Milligan said since the March extension, there’s been no word from council or the city in regards to the remediation report submitted by Parkway.

“More than two months later, no information is available about the contents of that report or the city’s response to it, despite a Freedom of Information (FOI) Act being submitted on March 30, 2016 and a successful appeal to the Information and Privacy Commissioner,” Milligan wrote. “No remedial action appears to be happening onsite. With yet another hot and dry spring, the remaining fen is likely continuing to dry out and degrade the absence of remedial action.”

Milligan said city staff has provided council with options for remediation, as have consultants hired by Parkway.

She questioned in her letter why council has not acted on those recommendations.

“City staff has provided council with the information required to deal with this situation,” Milligan wrote. “For the council to ignore the expert advice from city staff and legal consult is to set an unfavourable precedent that suggests rules can be ignored and sensitive ecosystems are of little value to council.”

At Monday’s council meeting, Mayor Andy Adams said he took exception to that.

“I can emphatically state that council is not ignoring, but is going through a lengthy process and doing due diligence,” Adams said.

Council voted to send a letter of response to Greenways, as well as provide the organization with any information it legally can.

City Clerk Peter Wipper noted, however, that the city has just recently made available some significant information

“A large package went out Thursday of last week in response to an FOI request so I believe not only this organization, but other organizations, also have it now,” Wipper said.

The Mirror sent an FOI request to the city in late March for information pertaining to the Jubilee wetlands saga.

The Mirror last week received 203 pages worth of information, including the most recent report from McElhanney consultants which outlines three options for remediating the destroyed wetlands as well as providing compensation for the fen that cannot, in the environmental professional’s opinion, be remediated.

The information contained in those documents, including the three options the city is considering, will be reported on in upcoming editions of the Mirror.

Meanwhile, Milligan said Greenways would like to see the city act quickly on a remediation plan.

“We urge the City of Campbell River to move forward with the Remedial Action Requirement to start to heal the damage caused (by) the original dumping in this wetland, and subsequent damage due to lack of action to halt the flow of water from this sensitive ecosystem,” Milligan wrote.