This aerial photo shows the Jubilee wetlands

Jubilee wetlands: city legal fees piling up

The city has spent more than $4,000 dealing with the fallout from disturbed wetlands off Jubilee Parkway

The city has spent more than $4,000 dealing with the fallout from disturbed wetlands off Jubilee Parkway, according to a city staff report.

Terri Martin, the city’s environmental specialist, and Chris Osborne, the city’s senior planner, wrote in a joint report to city council that monitoring the problem, and trying to work towards a solution, has cost the city.

“This issue continues to consume staff time and financial resources,” they wrote. “Non-recoverable and ongoing legal and external professional fees that are accruing as a result of this issue are currently estimated at $4,140.”

And counting.

Martin and Osborne said seeing remediation efforts through could take several years.

“Staff time will be required on an intermittent basis through the data collection, implementation and monitoring (during a) 12-13 year period,” they wrote.

That’s because a report from Qualified Environmental Professional (QEP) McElhanney, hired by Parkway Properties Joint Venture which has taken responsibility for the disturbed wetlands, is recommending a remedial plan aimed at restoring the full, 2.42 hectare area that was damaged even though it will not be a quick fix.

The fen was disturbed and the wetlands altered over a seven year period, between 2007 and early 2014, as developers dumped soil over the area while developing a subdivision on the opposite, northern side of Jubilee Parkway.

McElhanney said in a remediation report submitted to the city in July, and which was before council at its Monday meeting, that “the complete recovery schedule will be 12 to 13 years depending on the period settled on for data collection prior to initiation of the implementation plan.”

The full remediation option was brought to the city after McElhanney said it consulted with several leading academic subject-area experts.

The report says that McElhanney was originally advised that “the feasibility of fen recovery using existing data was very low” but upon further investigation discovered new research out of the University of Waterloo and the University of Colorado that indicated that full remediation was technically feasible.

George Stuart, principal of Parkway Properties, wrote in a letter to the city, dated July 29, that Parkway, however, has concerns with going that route.

“In our discussions with our QEP we expressed concern on the significant investment of time and money without the certainty of positive results,” Stuart wrote. “It is acknowledged that there is no certainty that even after the two to three years of analyzing the hydraulics that the conclusion will be that the fen can be remediated. There is then still the uncertainty that even if that hydrology analysis was positive that the further 10 years of remediation would be successful.”

Stuart said Parkway is hopeful the city will consider two other options.

One of those options would be to restore 40 per cent of the disturbed area and in addition, Parkway would give the city 5.39 gross hectares of its own urban forest land as a form of compensation. Stuart said with that option, some, if not all of the physical ground work could be completed this year.

The other option Parkway is suggesting is to regrade the disturbed area and plant it with native species of upland forest, which Stuart said could also be done this year if the city were to sign off on that option shortly.

Parkway would also provide a $300,000 grant to the city as compensation for the remainder of the disturbed fen in order to fund a new environmental project reserve.

“We have previously stated publicly that we want to be responsible corporate citizens, and we have a long track record in the community as such,” Stuart wrote. “We are not asking for leniency, we are requesting the city take a broader perspective and consider other compensation options.”

The city, for its part, has yet to commit to any option. While Martin and Osborne’s report acknowledges that McElhanney is recommending the full remediation option, Martin and Osborne wrote that more information is needed before they can recommend an option for council to approve.

“Once staff clarify a number of matters with the QEPs and the property owner and have the chance to consult with experts and senior governments, we will be in a better position to outline options for council’s consideration,” Martine and Osborne wrote.

For more on the Jubilee wetlands story see Friday’s edition of the Mirror.