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B.C. Transit to clear red-listed wetland next week

Final approvals almost in place for agency to build new transit hub on B.C. Hydro’s land



Two months after B.C. Transit started quietly scoping out a red-listed wetland in Whistler as a future location for their new transit facility, the Crown agency has now made a final decision to pave the land as soon as possible.

B.C. Transit wants to remove all the wetland’s trees, bushes and vegetation by next week.

“We are hoping, with various approvals in place with B.C. Hydro, that we will be able to move in and do more extensive clearing and grubbing to better refine the project’s costs in final detail,” confirmed Steve New, senior vice president of B.C. Transit on Wednesday, Aug. 6.

While New said B.C. Transit was confident in their ability to mitigate the transit hub’s impact on the wetland, their plans have been a source of controversy within the Whistler community since their intentions were made known earlier this summer.

At issue is the fact that the wetland is owned by B.C. Hydro, a Crown corporation, and therefore exempt from the municipality’s regulations, including its policy of protecting wetlands.

Earlier this week, Mayor Ken Melamed had said that council was hoping to give their comments to B.C. Transit during their scheduled Aug. 18 meeting. But by Tuesday evening, the municipality received information from B.C. Transit that they plan to begin work on the site before that date.

“Due to time pressures to make sure that B.C. Transit can utilize this building season, which they need in order to get this completed on time, they ended up making their final decision more quickly than we had anticipated,” said Michele Comeau Thompson, spokesperson for the Resort Municipality of Whistler on Wednesday.

“It was their intention, and ours, for them to come to the Aug. 18 council meeting and present the information and move forward from there.

“B.C. Transit regretted having to accelerate this to the point where they weren’t able to present to council in advance,” she said.

As a result of the accelerated construction schedule, council will not get a chance to debate the Crown agency’s plans before the clearcutting begins.

Comeau Thompson said, however, that the RMOW does support B.C. Transit’s site selection for the transit facility that will house Whistler’s fleet of 20 hydrogen buses coming in 2009, along with a hydrogen fueling station, because it is centrally located and B.C. Transit has plans to mitigate the facility’s environmental impact.

B.C. Transit’s environmental review and fisheries site survey, which Pique Newsmagazine received as this story went to press, states: “Based on the preliminary site plan, construction will require the infilling of existing wetted areas resulting in a total in-stream impact area of approximately 240 square metres. Construction will also require the removal of riparian habitat resulting in a total riparian impact area of approximately 16,200 square metres.”