Saanich councillor questions project’s environmental impact

McKenzie-Admirals interchange will disturb sections of Cuthbert Holmes Park

The new McKenzie-Admirals interchange with the Trans Canada Highway will be built as a partial cloverleaf that appropriates a large section of Cuthbert Holmes Park.

include itself with Coun. Vic Derman’s efforts to work with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure on measuring the environmental impacts of the upcoming McKenzie-Admirals interchange on Cuthbert Holmes Park.

The decision came on Aug. 22 when Derman received only one vote in support of a motion that included six recommendations asking MOTI to share with council how it will mitigate the project’s impact on Cuthbert Holmes. Derman’s plan was to have Saanich send a letter to MOTI requesting a new environmental study, something that has been lacking all along, he said.

Derman has been challenging MOTI since it declared on April 26 the $85 million interchange will use a partial cloverleaf, which will have the greatest impact on Cuthbert Holmes of all the proposed designs.

“I am a little bit disappointed, I understand there’s probably a reluctance [from council] to push too hard, and I respect the vote,” Derman said. “But if [MOTI] is doing it, then just tell us what they’re doing. I don’t want to go on blind faith. I think it would be to our advantage if they were talking to Saanich council.”

On May 11, council did support Derman in a motion that saw Saanich ask the ministry why a thorough design proposal by Gorge Tillicum Community Association wasn’t chosen. It yielded results, as GTCA president Rob Wickson received a response a week later from MOTI transportation planning engineer David Edgar, citing various reasons why the proposal wouldn’t work. But Wickson saw the response merely as a chance to discount GTCA’s ideas, as the proposal was also meant to work within the broader complexities of GTCA’s long-term transportation planning, he said.

That May 11 council session also served to polarize Saanich residents. Some voiced their opinion, which is shared across the region, that the overpass is long overdue. Others supported Derman, who felt the ministry could have done a better job of consulting and are rushing the decision to use a cloverleaf, which will encroach on nesting areas for migratory and native birds, and move the entire highway closer to the salmon-bearing Colquitz River.

To this day, Derman says MOTI has not corresponded with council about the project, which is why he designed the recent recommendations. MOTI did present to Saanich’s bicycle and pedestrian mobility committee in the spring, which did not endorse the cloverleaf proposal.

The NDP’s Rob Fleming, whose Victoria-Swan Lake provincial riding falls on the Cuthbert half of the McKenzie-Admirals exchange, said he is happy the government is finally doing something about the failing intersection.

However, Fleming also agrees with Derman that MOTI needs to follow up on a number of items including the environmental impact.

“I hope and expect that they do that in short order,” Fleming said. “The project is overdue but needs to be done right. The buffer to the schools [Spectrum and Marigold] and the incursion into the park are issues that need to be managed well.”

Derman’s proposed letter to MOTI, which council defeated on Aug. 22, would have outlined specific issues such as noise, light spillage, water runoff and more, all with an eye to mitigate their effect on Cuthbert Holmes and the Colquitz.

“I don’t want an adversarial relationship with the ministry but, as elected representatives of Saanich, it’s our role to make sure the end result is as minimal an impact on the park as possible,” Derman said. “Even if MOTI could provide a 3D model to the public, instead of the 2D models we see, it would be easier for people to visualize.”

 

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