DFO withdraws from Silverdale planning process

The Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has officially withdrawn from the Silverdale planning process stating that “although DFO staff invested many hours on this process, there have been numerous occasions when our comments or suggestions were overlooked or not considered, or requests for clarification were unanswered. These comments and concerns were raised regarding the charette/design workshops, during the environmental base map review process, during development of the Environmental studies terms of reference, and when requests were made to comment on documents that were already outdated.” (DFO June 11/08). For DFO to withdraw at this stage signals a major problem with the Silverdale planning process in which Mission Council’s desperation to pass the plan before the next municipal election Nov. /08 is being given priority over cooperation with senior environmental ministries and responsible planning. Citizens who would like to read the full DFO report can find it on page 135 of District of Mission’s July 7/08 agenda.

Endangered Species found in Silverdale

Mission’s Environmental Manager announced to the Neighbourhood Plan Advisory Committee (NPAC) May 14 that four Species-at-Risk so far have been found in Neighbourhood One of the proposed Genstar development in Silverdale. These species, listed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, include the Oregon forest snail, Red-legged frog, Pacific sideband and Water pepper.  The Ministry of the Environment is calling the presence of over 200 endangered Oregon forest snails a “highly significant find”.  Other listed species, such as Western screech owls, have not yet been located by the developer’s consultants but have been photographed by local residents.

The survival of endangered species is dependent on protection of critical habitat such as the forests, streams, ponds, and wetlands in Silverdale. Frogs are highly vulnerable to water contamination.  This is also a major concern for current Silverdale residents, who rely on groundwater for their wells, and for Mission residents who utilize Silverdale’s freshwater springs.

Given the importance of these discoveries, CAUSS was shocked to hear members of  NPAC state that the presence of endangered species on the site will not alter their plan for Neighbourhood One because the Ministry of Environment has no legal authority to stop it.  This statement is not only incorrect, but is clearly at odds with environmental sustainability, the health of our community, and the future of endangered species in Canada.  Citizens can help save these species by telling council that the recommendations from the Ministry of Environment must be followed if this development is to proceed.

Environmental ministries caution Mission

CAUSS has learned that the provincial Ministry of the Environment (MoE) and federal department of Fisheries (DFO) have now both formally cautioned the District of Mission for the haste with which planning decisions for Silverdale are being made (see District of Mission agenda March 31/08 pg 18-19).  Design options are being presented to the public despite only 3 of 34 required studies being complete.  None of the 9 required environmental studies have been completed and the technical requirements for these environmental studies were adopted by the District “without agency input” (MoE Sept. 19/07).  DFO raised 18 separate concerns, and stated “it is unlikely DFO can enter into agreements with the District based on planning and deliverables thus far” (DFO Dec. 20/07). Most recently, MoE stated, “if the aggressive timelines and order of process continue to limit the value of [MoE] input, we will reconsider our involvement” (MoE March 4/08).

Given that ministry approvals will be required throughout the development, why would the District choose to disregard the recommendations of the ministries now, and leave itself open to expensive ad hoc planning in the future if such approvals are not forthcoming? The Cedar Valley development’s shortfall for drainage works is now well over $8.3 million, in part, because the District’s plan for a huge detention pond was rejected by DFO.

Making fundamental planning mistakes of the magnitude evident in the biggest development in Mission’s history could ultimately lead to double-digit tax increases for all Mission residents in the very near future, as well as permanent loss of the high environmental values of Silverdale.  Council’s need to finalize a plan prior to the next municipal election cannot be allowed to supercede the public’s expectation that elected officials adhere to a responsible planning process.  Concerned citizens should attend the Special Council meeting with representatives from DFO and MoE Thursday April 10, 6:30 at the municipal hall.

CAUSS member presents Backyard Birding

Bruce Klassen will be speaking about identifying and attracting local birds to your back yard April 30/08 from 7-8 pm at the Mission Library, 33247 – 2 Ave.  He will augment the talk with a superb collection of photos of owls, wood peckers, and other amazing wildlife which visited his own back yard in Silverdale.   Understanding the needs of local wildlife is the first step to ensuring appropriate protection is given to the critical habitat on which they depend.  For more information, and to register to attend, call 826-6610.

CAUSS speaks out against private power project in Pinecone Burke Provincial Park

March 4/08: Over 300 concerned citizens packed the public information meeting in Mission to speak out against the proposed Run of River private power project in the upper Pitt River. The project will divert all 8 tributaries of the Pitt River, devastating the largest remaining wild coho and sockeye salmon runs in the Fraser Valley. The project will build a transmission line through Pinecone Burke Provincial Park, threatening critical grizzly bear and elk habitat, and setting an appalling precedent for industrial intrusions in other provincial parks. “BC Parks has a commitment to protect and manage for all time the natural heritage conserved in the provincial protected area systems” said CAUSS chair, Dr. Tracy Lyster. “This project enables and perpetuates sprawl. By the time the project is complete, the demands for power arising from urban sprawl will exceed what the project contributes. Is the plan to sacrifice every river and stream in BC to feed urban sprawl? What is really needed is better conservation, efficiency and growth containment”. Citizens can voice their concerns at an upcoming public meeting, 6:30 pm, March 25 at the Pitt Meadows Secondary School, 19438- 116B Avenue, Pitt Meadows. If you cannot make the meeting, you have until April 2 to oppose the deletion of land from Pinecone Burke park by emailing: PineconeBurke AT gov.bc.ca. For more information, see www.ourrivers.ca.