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The Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has officially withdrawn from the Silverdale planning process stating that “although DFO staff invested many hours on this process, there have been numerous occasions when our comments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of the Environmental studies terms of reference, and when requests were made to comment on documents that were already outdated.”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.

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.