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South Campbell Heights plan needs more studies, consultation: outdoor recreation council

‘Urban streams edition’ of 2022 report highlights negative impact on Little Campbell River
The Little Campbell River is among two ‘urban streams’ highlighted by the Outdoor Recreation Council of B.C. in its latest report on ‘the province’s most threatened rivers.’ (Christy Juteau photo)

The Little Campbell River in South Surrey is among two waterways being highlighted by the Outdoor Recreation Council of B.C. in advance of its 2022 report on “the province’s most threatened rivers.”

Released Monday (Dec. 6), the “urban stream edition” describes the Little Campbell and Burnaby’s Stoney Creek as “two of greater Vancouver’s most productive urban waterways.”

“Yet, the events that transpired along both streams this past year highlight some major shortcomings in how we protect urban waterways.”

The Little Campbell – known by the Semiahmoo First Nation as Tatalu – has come into sharper focus due to the City of Surrey’s efforts in recent years to redesignate lands in South Campbell Heights to allow for employment use.

The area in question is bounded by 20 Avenue to the north, 196 Street to the east, 8 Avenue to the south and approximately 186 Street to the west. It is outside of the agricultural land reserve, sits atop the Brookswood aquifer and encompasses 72 properties.

The 30-kilometre Little Campbell River bisects the more than 600-acre target area, and flows through SFN lands into Boundary Bay.

In October, Metro Vancouver gave conditional approval to the city’s proposal, which includes extending the urban containment boundary and thereby opening the area up to commercial and industrial development; a move opponents maintain threatens not only the salmon-bearing river, but also the Brookswood aquifer.

READ MORE: Surrey’s South Campbell Heights land re-designation plan moves forward

Proponents of the land-use change have said that redesignating the area will help address a “critical” shortage of industrial land in the region, create thousands of jobs and millions in tax revenue, and that “every reasonable measure has and will be taken” to ensure responsible development.

Describing the Little Campbell as “one of the most productive salmon and trout rivers for its size in the Lower Mainland, with more than 5,000 salmon annually returning to the river and its tributaries from Semiahmoo Bay,” the ORCBC report notes that the city did not consult with the SFN prior to moving the proposal forward, and cited concerns highlighted by Chief Harley Chappell at the Oct. 29, 2021 Metro Vancouver meeting.

At that time, Chappell said that often, many issues that could be addressed early on aren’t because such efforts take place “at the eleventh hour.”

“We hear, we read it on the media and unfortunately, we’re never engaged in that,” Chappell said. “Kind of eleventh hour, we come to the table.”

The Outdoor Recreation Council of B.C. is also concerned about impacts “of such an extensive development on the health of the river,” the report states.

“The porous nature of the forested area that’s proposed for development plays a key role in the maintenance of the aquifer, which in turn recharges the river during increasingly warm and dry summer months,” it explains. “The intensive development of this site could well change that and there have yet to be adequate studies on the water-related impacts of this development.

“Most significantly, in-depth water-related studies along with extensive consultations with the Semiahmoo Nation should be carried out before developments of this scale are approved,” it continues.

“At a time when many jurisdictions in BC are spending millions of dollars to restore fish habitat and given the extensive storm-related damage that has recently occurred along so many other river systems, the future development of such an important natural habitat requires a more cautious approach.”

Final consideration of the city’s proposal is anticipated to take place in January.
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Tracy Holmes

About the Author: Tracy Holmes

Tracy Holmes has been a reporter with Peace Arch News since 1997.
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