Road work putting Serpentine wildlife ‘at risk’
As construction work along the King George Boulevard nears completion, at least one citizen is concerned the project has caused extensive damage to the Serpentine Fen.
White Rock’s Donna Passmore – who has long been a vocal advocate for preserving the city’s environment – said steep embankments that send silt into the environmentally sensitive area, and that the road is “right on top of their nesting habitat,” is “heartbreaking.”
“It is spring – fish-hatching and wildfowl nesting season – and yet the city’s activities in the name of ‘progress’ are sending floods of mud, sand and gravel into the Fen, while city signs urge the public to clean up litter,” Passmore said.
“In paper, the City of Surrey is the model of environmental stewardship, but I just about threw up when I saw what’s going on at the Serpentine.”
But City of Surrey officials say the concerns – brought to their attention after Passmore contacted the Peace Arch News – are the first they’ve heard. And, the accusation the project is infringing on the wildlife sanctuary is “completely inaccurate,” said city engineer Ken Zondervan.
“We’re not touching the Serpentine Fen. All of our work is well within our right-of-way,” he said.
Zondervan said an erosion and sediment control technician sent to the site – a move taken whenever concerns are raised – found no problems with the project April 14.
“Seems to be a false alarm,” he said.
Zondervan noted two independent environmental monitors who have been keeping tabs on the work since the get-go have “basically given the project a clean bill of health.”
He acknowledged a heavy rainfall could compromise sediment barriers, but said such damage would be repaired right away. As well, any sediment that does bypass barriers does not go into the Fen itself, he said. It goes into a roadside ditch that also does not drain into the Fen.
Reached this week, Passmore stood firm on her stance regarding damage.
She noted the city was adamant that dogs not be allowed within 300 metres of nesting grounds in Blackie Spit for fear of disrupting the wildlife, and yet have allowed a highway to run less than 15 metres from the Fen’s similarly sensitive lands.
Environmentalist and retired forester Roy Strang also questioned the logic.
“How can one reconcile the 300-metre set-back called for at Blackie Spit with the zero set-back alongside the Fen?” he commented by email.
Strang described the nesting-season disturbance as “simply unacceptable.”
Passmore described Zondervan’s assurances as “great PR.”
“That’s the city’s line,” she said. “What’s happened down there is just disgusting. Our priorities are so screwed up.”
Work on the highway began back in 2006. Cost-shared by the city and TransLink, it includes $6.8 million in roadwork and a $2.7-million bridge replacement. Weather-permitting, it will be finished by the end of May, Zondervan said.
Passmore said the project only highlights the need for more to be done throughout Surrey to protect the city’s green space.
“We’re just not moving forward, except in paper,” she said, referring to bylaws purported to protect the environment.
“We’re making mistakes in Surrey that cannot be undone.”