A view of some work already done on controversial 84 Avenue connector at southern end of Bear Creek Park. (Submitted photo)

A view of some work already done on controversial 84 Avenue connector at southern end of Bear Creek Park. (Submitted photo)

BEAR CREEK CONNECTOR

Proposed bridge, culvert work at 84 Avenue in Surrey would destroy fish habitat, DFO finds

Surrey looking at redesigning bridge to minimize impact on environment, to submit another request to DFO ‘in the next week or two’

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is awaiting Surrey’s response after finding that work on a culvert at King Creek and construction of a clear span bridge over Bear Creek, related to the 84th Avenue road project at the southern end of Bear Creek Park as proposed, would cause “harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat.”

The Fish and Fish Habitat Protection Program reviewed the City of Surrey’s submission to determine if a permit or authorization is required under the Species at Risk Act or Fisheries Act and subsequently notified the city that it can either redesign the work and resubmit it for review or apply for Fisheries Act authorization.

Brenda Rotinsky is the watershed operations regulatory manager with FFHPP.

“DFO has not yet heard from the City of Surrey on their next submission and as such, the file for DFO is on hold until such time that we hear from them,” she told the Now-Leader on Friday (March 25). “We will continue to monitor the ongoing works at and near King Creek and Bear Creek to ensure that appropriate avoidance and mitigation measures are implemented.”

Surrey council, on a Safe Surrey Coalition majority vote, decided to resurrect and fast-track a $13-million plan to extend 84 Avenue between King George Boulevard and 140 Street at the southernmost end of Bear Creek Park. This passed on a five-to-four vote.

A previous council abandoned a similar proposal in 2007 in the face of community opposition.

Environmentalists have likewise taken aim at the latest project, with the Force of Nature Society filing a petition in B.C. Supreme Court to have declared parkland properties impacted by the 84th Avenue project. After some back-and-forth in court between the petitioners and the City of Surrey, a judge decided the city can proceed with the project.

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Rotinsky said the city doesn’t have to stop all work. Construction hasn’t yet begun on the bridge or the permanent culvert.

“That work is on hold,” she explained. “But if they want to go ahead and do some other preparation at the site, I’m certain that there’s a lot of work to construct a highway. There’s a lot of other things they could be doing that DFO doesn’t have any control over.”

She noted that while there is some temporary culvert work at King Creek the city doesn’t have a permanent plan in place yet.

“Temporary culverts that are there, that work we did look at and we provided them with some advice on how to conduct that work without violating the prohibitions in the Fisheries Act.”

Coun. Linda Annis, of Surrey First, said Friday the City of Surrey has done a project review, is looking at redesigning the bridge to minimize impact on the environment, and will submit another request to DFO in the next week or two.

Annis voted against the project.

“I don’t think in the first place we should be putting a road through an iconic park like Bear Creek Park and there’s been lots of controversy around the environmental concerns and I think this is just a really good example of why we should not be doing this,” she said.

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Photo of an ‘oil slick’ taken Thursday (March 24) downstream of a pedestrian bridge over King Creek, upstream from temporary culverts. The City of Surrey says it’s not an oil slick but rather appears to be a ‘bacterial sheen.’ (Submitted photo)

A statement issued Friday by the City of Surrey on behalf of its engineering department states the city is “working with regulators based on feedback” concerning the proposed Bear Creek bridge and culvert at King Creek, with the “continued goal” of completing the project “while ensuring all environmental assets are protected. The City is moving ahead with the project and work at the site is continuing as planned in areas that do not require regulatory approval.”

That same day, the Now-Leader was alerted to an “oil slick” in the area, on the bank of King Creek near the temporary culvert. City staff subsequently determined it not to be an oil slick or some kind of petroleum product but rather a “typical breakdown of organic material” that appeared to be a “bacterial sheen” on the bank but not in the creek.

Meantime, Sebastian Sajda, president of Force of Nature and also running for a position on council in October’s election with Surrey Connect, said his group is “pretty frustrated” with communication from both the City of Surrey and DFO.

“We’ve been trying to figure out exactly what DFO’s intentions are, and what their requirements are for the city,” Sajda said. “They’re only willing to give us sort of this very basic, vague information. Our understanding would be they wouldn’t be able to operate within a certain radius of any creek while this review is going on. We’ve been watching this site and they have been working in that area but they haven’t been working sort of specifically right next to the creek.”

According to Rotinsky, if the city requires a Fisheries Act Authorization for work at these streams, “which current design dictates that they do,” then DFO requires “appropriate offsetting to counterbalance the impacts.”

Coun. Doug Elford, of Safe Surrey Coalition, said Friday the city needs to reduce congestion in Newton.

“Congestion in Newton is at a critical choking point,” he said, adding the 84 Avenue connector will provide relief in the form of another east-west arterial route that will allow for better movement of goods, products and people through Surrey.

Alternatives to the connector would have had even more impact on the environment, Elford maintains.

“I’m not concerned about the environmental impacts, I think there will be improvements to the fish but also it will also allow people to enjoy parts of Surrey that, I mean you’d have to wear hip waders to go out there where they are now.”



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

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