Staff members in North Cowichan are confident that the construction work along Beverly Street adjacent to the Somenos Marsh is being conducted in an environmentally sound manner.
In a report to council, the municipality’s manager of engineering Barb Thomas said the environmental consultant that was hired for the project has developed a plan designed to maintain compliance with federal, provincial, and municipal regulations for environmental protection.
She said all disturbed areas of the construction zone are to be restored to their original condition or better once the work is completed.
The municipality’s construction work at the site will see the road widened, new cycling lanes, a new curb and centre island, new pedestrian crossings complete with flashing lights, a new roundabout and underground utilities.
But the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society has deep concerns with the project.
In a letter to council, the society said the recent clearing of vegetation and construction work along Beverly Street has been conducted at the height of songbird nesting season and it is likely that birds were killed during this work, in contravention to the Migratory Birds Convention Act.
The letter also expressed concern that the road 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.
But Thomas said the project is entirely within the road right of-way and a small portion of municipally-owned land.
She said the portion of municipal land that is being used for the roadway is a 1.5 hectare site that is scheduled to be converted to a constructed wetland in conjunction and the assistance of Somenos Marsh Wild life Society.
“It’s also been noted that the constructed wetland, which is primarily a series of excavated ponds and fill, does not require independent provincial approval,” Thomas said in her report.
“A nesting bird sweep was conducted prior to clearing along the north side of Beverly Street, as required to meet federal and provincial legislation. The society’s assertion that it’s probable that birds were killed during this work is unsubstantiated.”
Thomas said that during the clearing along the north side of Beverly Street, it was necessary to clear more vegetation than preferred because discarded hypodermic needles from what was a homeless camp were found in the underbrush and worker safety had to be protected.
She said surface material that was cleared or scraped from the site has been stockpiled and will be returned to the area after construction is complete in an effort to retain the original vegetation.
“Clearing done under the direction of the environmental consultant was performed with the intent of re-emergence of vegetation,” she said.
“The municipality conducts traffic volume surveys each year, and we know that in, the average traffic volume was 9,572 vehicles per day at Beverly Street and York Road. This volume is significant and substantiates the need for upgrades to Beverly Street.“