Storm brewing over West Van stormwater management project

Work is now beginning on a major piece of stormwater infrastructure linking the British Properties to the ocean, but some West Vancouverites are staging a pipeline protest of a different sort.

British Pacific Properties and the District of West Vancouver are planning to build a five-foot diameter pipe from the Upper Levels Highway down Westmount Road to the foot of 31st Street via Thompson Crescent and Mathers Avenue. The Five Creeks Diversion Project is designed to handle the excess flows from Pipe, Westmount, Cave, Turner, and Godman creeks on the slopes of Hollyburn Mountain.

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At a meeting between staff and neighbours at the foot of 31st Street last week, more than 50 residents came out to protest and demand the project be halted.

“It’s something that’s been in the works for 10 years but has just come out of the blue about a month ago,” Roger Finnie, spokesman for Save West Vancouver Creeks. “It’s a five-foot pipe. It’s a massive project.”

Beyond that lack of consultation, the group is concerned about neighbourhood disruption as the work is done, cost to municipal taxpayers and potential harm to the environment.

“The actual engineering reports are about 10 years old. … And there are a lot of modern ways to deal with it,” Finnie said. “We don’t know the exact solution where but we know British Pacific Properties needs to find a way to solve its rainwater problem on its own property, rather than on downstream residents.”

The group has netted hundreds of signatures on a petition asking the district to stop the project and find an alternative.

But the municipality says the work is not only going ahead, it is mandatory to protect more than 800 properties in the Rodgers Creek, Westmount and Altamont neighbourhoods from flooding as climate change fuels heavier storms.

“We’re required to do this by the province,” said Donna Powers, district spokeswoman. “This is really no different than a bridge or a water treatment plant, or constructing a new municipal hall. It’s got to be done. We consult on impacts, not on the project itself.”

The project was recommended in the district’s Integrated Stormwater Management Plan passed in 2013, which British Pacific Properties was required to fund and implement as part of a development agreement. Under the agreement, the district will pay up to $6.25 million towards the overall $16-million cost and the municipality will own the pipe when the project is complete.

Powers said that the stormwater management plan has taken years to develop and is still current.

“Studies like this one don’t just expire. There aren’t necessarily newer technologies that can suddenly change the reality of dealing with mountainous terrain,” she said.

The project has the blessing of the West Vancouver Streamkeepers Society because it will help protect the creeks that are home to the cutthroat trout and four species of salmons their volunteers work to save.

“Higher creek levels and more powerful flows may cause scouring and washing away of spawning gravel and damaging useable habitats throughout,” the society’s president, John Barker, wrote in a May 9 letter to the district.

Many of the residents who were out protesting stand to gain the most, according to British Pacific Properties.

“As we have seen the impacts of flooding in the Okanagan last year and more recently in Eastern Canada, British Pacific Properties is pleased to be working with the District of West Vancouver to prevent flooding and address climate change in West Vancouver,” general manager Alastair Meiklem said in a statement. “BPP and the district have agreed to work together to design and build one combined flood protection system which includes extra capacity to deal with the impacts of climate change.”

five creeks
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