A BNSF train rolls north along the Semiahmoo Peninsula’s waterfront tracks Jan. 30, past one of the slides that reader Erik Seiz photographed that same day. (Erik Seiz photo)

BNSF offers to discuss railway’s debris-clearing ‘practices’

DFO ‘looking into’ South Surrey complaints

BNSF Railway has offered to review its practices for clearing landslide debris that impacts its rail line through South Surrey with Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas confirmed to Peace Arch News this week that the offer was made following word of complaints to DFO that followed recent landslide activity.

“We’re aware of the reports,” Melonas said, of claims the railway had dumped debris including mud, boulders and trees onto the Semiahmoo foreshore.

“BNSF has requested a tour with Fisheries and Oceans and are planning this further… to discuss practices.”

DFO communications adviser Janine Malikian confirmed to PAN via email that the agency has fielded “a number” of complaints regarding the issue.

In a letter to the editor published by Peace Arch News March 30, writer Don Pitcairn claims BNSF dumped “tonnes of waste” onto the South Surrey shoreline – debris he said had been excavated from the tracks after “multiple mudslides.”

Describing the amount as equal to 12 dump-truck loads of fill, Pitcairn calls for the railway to be “held accountable,” and notes the issue was reported to multiple agencies, including DFO and BNSF.

Melonas acknowledged that two “blocking events” sent debris onto the shoreline – including one triggered by by someone dumping material above BNSF property – but denied the allegation that BNSF dumped it there.

“We have not placed debris on the public shore. We have retained the debris on BNSF property,” he said.

Typically, past practice – in place “for decades,” Melonas said – is to place such debris on top of rip rap adjacent to the track. Mother Nature, he said, does the rest.

“There are cases where the weathering will… wash it away,” he said.

“It will basically be washed away, just by the tidal action.”

Melonas said he couldn’t speculate if the DFO tour would lead to a change in BNSF practices.

Malikian emphasized that DFO is not conducting an investigation, noting that incorrect information was published in Vancouver media last week.

“DFO’s Fisheries Protection Program is aware of the deposits and is looking into the matter further to address concerns regarding the impacts these works may be having on the potential sand lance and surf smelt breeding habitat in the area,” she said.

She noted that under the Fisheries Act, projects near water must “avoid causing serious harm to fish unless authorized by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.” As well, that “all debris and/or deleterious substances” generated by such works “should be appropriately disposed of in accordance with all applicable legislation, guidelines, and best management practices.”

At the same time, a ‘Request for Review’ is not required under law.

BNSF has not submitted a ‘Request for Review,’ Malikian said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey students paint mural, paying homage to First Nations, at SkyTrain station

Artwork to showcase ‘positivity and racial inclusivity in the city’

PHOTOS: Residents showcased as ‘companion’ sculpture unveiled

Amica White Rock welcomes bronze guardian, celebrates resident talent

More than 50,000 checks: Surrey COVID-19 compliance, enforcement team’s role has ‘evolved’

Joint bylaw, RCMP team created to help with coronavirus education, support

Homemade explosives detonated in South Surrey

Police asking public for help identifying those responsible

White Rock highrise on hold after workers exhibit ‘severe’ overexposure symptoms

WorkSafeBC issued stop-work order at 1588 Johnston Rd. site on July 24

‘Don’t kill my mom’: Ryan Reynolds calls on young British Columbians to be COVID-smart

‘Deadpool’ celebrity responds to premier’s call for social influence support

Captain Horvat’s OT marker lifts Canucks to 4-3 win over Blues

Vancouver takes 2-0 lead in best-of-7 NHL playoff series with St. Louis

PHOTOS/VIDEO: Wings and Wheels set for weekend lift-off in Abbotsford

Fundraiser to raise money for Crystal Gala Foundation and the fight against breast cancer

Undercover video shows alleged animal abuse at Fraser Valley egg farm

One employee wearing logo of Chilliwack chicken-catching company already facing abuse charges

Widow of slain Red Deer doctor thanks community for support ahead of vigil

Fellow doctors, members of the public will gather for a physically-distanced vigil in central Alberta

Protesters showcase massive old yellow cedar as Port Renfrew area forest blockade continues

9.5-foot-wide yellow cedar measured by Ancient Forest Alliance campaigners in Fairy Creek watershed

Taking dog feces and a jackhammer to neighbourhood dispute costs B.C. man $16,000

‘Pellegrin’s actions were motivated by malice …a vindictive, pointless, dangerous and unlawful act’

Racist stickers at Keremeos pub leaves group uneasy and angry

The ‘OK’ hand gesture is a known hate-symbol

Most Read