In April 2015, the provincial government began to put together a plan to “fix” the McKenzie intersection.
Before the official summer announcement, there were no conversations with the Gorge Tillicum Community. Then the ministry began what they have claimed to be the most comprehensive consultation process they have ever undertaken. I am sure it was expensive. The Gorge Tillicum Community Association (GTCA) attempted to participate at the highest level, including forming a task group made of community members with expertise in highway design, environmental standards and community consultation. After working with the ministry process for a few months we realized this was not going to be true community consultation but a sales job to convince everyone that they had been consulted even though the option for “fixing” the intersection had already been chosen.
In June 2016, the GTCA hosted a town hall meeting, with members of the community asking ministry officials a series of questions. One key question: “Please explain your prevention/protection plan for sediment runoff to the Colquitz River from the site during each phase of this construction project?” Their answer: “Standard specifications are clearly outlined for all projects and the contractor on this project will also have to meet the special provisions outlined in the bid/contract. The contractor will have to provide a construction environmental management plan and MOTI will have final approval of the plan.” This is a clear statement of responsibility. When we asked to participate in defining and monitoring environmental considerations, we were rebuffed.
The ministry’s plan failed. Yes there were difficult circumstances, however, each one would have been manageable with due care and attention. The damage has yet to be measured, but more to the point, how can we now trust the foundations of this project if what they have told us has not met the first test?
We are now facing a new problem, as the work is now being done from 5:30 p.m. to 8 a.m., the noise has come to the point of being harmful to the health of nearby residents. So we checked with MOTI and were told: “During construction, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is committed to minimize delays and maximize predictability for all commuters (drivers, transit users, cyclists and pedestrians) by undertaking the majority of work outside of peak traffic periods. The ministry will not allow lane closures for construction on Sundays, statutory holidays, or during the hours of 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Nighttime work may include 15- to 30-minute traffic stoppages and advance notice will be provided. The contractor may work throughout the night for some activities, but every effort will be made to keep noise minimal for nearby residents.”
Red flags are going up in a hurry throughout the area the GTCA represents. Folks are losing sleep because of this project, literally. This night-time noise is in breach of the Saanich noise bylaw, but it seems the province is exempt and is choosing to ignore the spirit of the bylaw.
Sleep deprivation is a significant health issue. Results of epidemiological studies indicate that nocturnal noise exposure might be more relevant for the creation of long-term health outcomes such as cardiovascular disease than is daytime noise exposure. But we have not heard any plans by the ministry to monitor nighttime noise levels. The ministry’s message seems to be: tough, suck it up – which is simply inadequate.
Had the provincial government worked with our community at the very beginning of this project, and listened, we would be in much better shape today. Trust is something to be earned and respect plays a huge part. The environmental, health and economic costs are mounting and we are counting.
Rob Wickson, president