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Whistler Creek re-routing complete after 10 years

Creek route opened to water on Tuesday



Dave Williamson of Cascade Environmental has seen a lot of projects to completion over the years, from work with the 2010 Winter Games to the environmental assessment for the Fitzsimmons Creek hydroelectric project - but nothing has dragged on as long as the reroute of Whistler Creek.

"We've been involved since (the project's) inception in 1998 or so," he explained. "Intrawest wanted to redevelop Creekside and we came up with a comprehensive strategy that included Kadenwood, Spring Creek and Creekside, and put it all together in a package for the municipality to get rezoning for everything all at once."

The creation of the underground parking structure and commercial area at Creekside was also part of that project, and to see it through Whistler Blackcomb wanted to realign Whistler Creek into its historic alignment - whatever that alignment was after more than 30 years of development in the area.

In 2001, after discussions, Cascade Environmental was preparing to flip the channel from a series of pipes running under the highway into a more natural watercourse that flows under the new highway bridge. However, it was discovered that the Petro Canada station at Creekside had an underground leak, with a plume that stretched across the Creekside flats and even to the other side of the highway. To clean it up, Petro Canada used a slow but reliable vapour extraction process that took the better part of a decade to complete. They also removed contaminated soil from the site when the gas station closed in 2006.

Williamson said they recently received a letter from the company doing the Petro Canada cleanup, allowing the reroute to finally go ahead.

"This is our longest running job," said Williamson with a laugh. "If somebody told me in 2000 that we'd still be working on this in 2011 I wouldn't have believed them.

"It would have been nice to have it done for the Olympics, but it will be really nice once we have the channel doing its thing and flowing, and the fish back in it and everything working properly. It will be a really nice amenity."

Some 10 per cent of the water will continue to flow through the pipes, but with the removal of the cap and steel barrier on Tuesday most of the water will be diverted into the channel under the bridge. Some of the work leading up to the removal of the plug includes installing fish fencing, salvaging any fish in the old channel, removing some silt and stagnant water, and ensuring that the fish habitat is in place.

The new channel was also built to handle a large debris flow, which was identified as a risk of the waterway more than a decade ago. The construction of the debris barrier further up the creek is a result of those flood and debris studies.

"The main reason (the channel) looks the way it is is that it was designed to take a debris flow," Williamson explained. "It's a combination of engineering for debris flow protection and habitat improvements, so it's really a marriage of two separate goals."



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