John Buchanan is quaking. It’s the seismic of disgust, the reverberations of disbelief.
And he’s not alone. Assembled around an information table at the end of Cleveland Avenue in Squamish, he and a small band of protesters stand in the mellow rains, signs and placards drawing attention to a controversy surrounding the Cattermole Slough.
“This is incredible,” he says. “I don’t like coming down here in the morning and doing a protest, but this is too much.”
It appears the District of Squamish has moved to infill the slough, this despite plans to extend it into the Mamquam Blind Channel, thus creating an almost Venetian waterway, an idea with popular support.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Buchanan continues. “It makes sense economically and environmentally. It’s a no-brainer.”
And yet, Buchanan came across an infill application filed by former Deputy Administrator Brent Leigh to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. The application was filed quietly, though a notice appeared in an April 2007 edition of The Chief . Given by Cascadia Consulting, the notice was to “construct a fill in, on, under, through or across Cattermole Slough.”
Mayor Greg Gardner, while not aware of an application, says he hasn’t heard the waterway idea in some time.
“As far as I’m personally aware, that is not something that’s being actively pursued. And I guess with respect to communication, I think on an issue of that significance, we council have to try and ensure that the public has as much info as possible prior to council making any decision.”
The logic behind the infill is rooted in the district’s transportation plan, which calls for an extension of Cleveland Avenue. The Peninsula Landowners Consortium, composed of BC Rail, Westmana and the Squamish Oceanfront Development Corporation, are all involved in finding the information for the transportation plan.
Buchanan was tipped off by Edith Tobe, a biologist with the Squamish River Watershed Society. Because of an eelgrass project Tobe is conducting near the slough, Cascadia Consulting and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans contacted her for an impact statement. But she knew nothing of the application, which came as a surprise to both agencies.
“I’m shocked,” says Tobe. “I have extreme concerns about filling the upper Cattermole slough because of the impact on the estuary. I definitely have a much larger support for reconnecting the Mamquam Blind Channel to the Cattermole Slough and getting it back in circulation. Any time we lose estuary, we shouldn’t do it lightly.
To longtime Councillor Corinne Lonsdale, this whole infill business is yet another episode in staff and council relations, a saga sometimes marked by poor communication.
“That issue has never been in front of us as a council,” said Lonsdale. “We have never dealt with that. I’ve heard, as have had other members of council, some discussion around people maybe wanting to fill in the slough. But John Buchanan’s e-mail actually had the application that was submitted by Brent Leigh attached. It’s premature to comment on it until we get more background on what it is and where it is. I don’t know what that application necessarily means. I wonder about the landowners who would be impacted. How do they feel about it?”
Gardner notes that access to the peninsula is tricky, and new routing of some sort will be required, whether bridges over a Venetian waterway or roads of some other sort.