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WV development critics call for water study

Stormwater plan could advocate the opening of buried streams

OPPONENTS of Grosvenor's development proposal for the 1300-block of Ambleside and any others like it are hoping a more detailed study of the area's mostly forgotten streams will stop council from approving any high-density developments.

Several residents are calling for the District of West Vancouver to conduct an integrated stormwater management plan for Ambleside, speculating that the long-covered Vinson Creek could be revived.

Vinson once flowed to Burrard Inlet through what is today the 1300-and 1400-blocks of Marine Drive, but as the area was built up over the last 60 years, Vinson Creek was diverted through underground pipes to Brothers Creek.

Metro Vancouver has been helping municipalities conduct detailed studies of their watersheds and creeks with the aim of identifying, protecting and enhancing local waterways while developments spring up around them.

"They're kind of operating without a baseline of the watershed there and all of the issues with fisheries and the environment. They kind of missed a step," said Rolf Beltz, a resident opposed to Grosvenor's plan for seven-and eight-story development on the south side of the 1300-block of Marine Drive.

"Not prejudging what would come out of it, but what if the ISMP said: 'We think we should daylight the main branch of the creek at 14th coming up from up the wharf?'" Beltz said. "Both those blocks are going to be dug out. If you do the ISMP after the 1300-and 1400-blocks are developed, it's going to be pretty hard to daylight the creek.

"That may well be the reason why West Van has not done the ISMP. They're just hoping to slide it all by," he speculated.

Ultimately, Park Royal "won the race" for becoming West Vancouver's "town centre," where high-density growth is more appropriate, said Beltz, while Ambleside should remain like a village.

Joining in the call for an ISMP is ZoAnn Morten, executive director of the Pacific Streamkeepers Federation, albeit for different reasons.

"They need to at least consider that the water from that Vinson Creek area and the development that's taking place is going to have an impact on Brothers Creek because it's going to get kicked off," she said.

To its credit, the district has already conducted three of the intricate and costly studies on eight West Vancouver creeks since 2005, Morton said, making it one of the leaders in B.C.

But West Vancouver has prioritized creeks that need protection from future development over ones that could potentially be revived like Vinson, Morten said.

"Because they are so built over and so much of it is already in pipes, (the district) looked at where development is going to happen on creeks that are still functioning a little naturally so that they could keep those in check," she said.

If any government decides to daylight or uncover a previously buried stream, they need to do so with the knowledge it won't automatically make it a thriving fish habitat, she said.

"If it's not open to the ocean, it's not going to be salmon habitat. It's going to be water feature. Water features and daylighted streams are not offered the same protection under

the riparian area regulations as streams that are open today," she said.

Still, there is some value to residents being able to see their local watershed, even if it isn't fish bearing. And constantly funnelling more and more smaller streams into larger ones isn't healthy for waterways either, according to Morten.

"People wonder why the Lynn Creek goes crazy. It's because she gets water that doesn't belong to her and so now she's eating down and doesn't meander back and forth and she just becomes a big chute," she said.

"That's what happens when you engineer without realizing where your water's going," Morten said.

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