Construction work along Beverly Street adjacent to the Somenos Marsh has ruffled the feathers of the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society.
Major Jon Lefebure said council awaits a staff report on the matter after receiving a letter from the Wildlife Society questioning, among other things, the timing of the municipality’s construction work which includes: road widening, including cycling lanes, a new curb and centre island, new pedestrian crossings, complete with flashing lights, a new roundabout and underground utilities.
“In particular,” said the letter, which was dated June 25, “we are concerned that the recent clearing and construction work along Beverly Street has been conducted at the height of songbird nesting season and it is very probable that birds were killed during this work in contravention to the Migratory Birds Convention Act.”
The letter also expressed concern that the improvements are encroaching on the Somenos Marsh Conservation Area and therefore providing less wildlife habitat, contributing to increasing amounts of invasive species and encouraging further human encroachment.
“Although a municipality has greater flexibility than developers with regard to provincial riparian protection regulations, the expansion sends the community a message that adhering to the spirit of protection guidelines is a low priority for North Cowichan,” said the letter, written by SMWS board member David Polster.
Lefebure understood their concerns.
“I think the important thing is that no one on council or staff like to hear that the [Society] was unhappy with the way the work was being done,” Lefebure said. “I believe there is perhaps some of the concerns that the Marsh Society, or the naturalist expressed, were untrue, for instance, when Dave Conway [director of engineering and operations] did report back that the bird count was done, the nesting birds, that was one of their concerns.”
Lefebure said “in an effort to get the proper information out there,” he has asked Conway to report back to council on the construction progress “so that we could decide if we have been operating in an environmentally sound manner so that we can respond to the concerns expressed in those letters.”
“I think that’s the proper way to handle it,” Lefebure said. “We have to respect the letters and concerns and see if we believe we’re operating properly and if we’re not we’ve got to fix it.”