The Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society wants the property where the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment is currently situated returned to being a wetland again after the building is removed.
Construction of the new $48-million RCMP detachment on a five-acre property bordering Ford Road and Drinkwater Road is expected to begin early in the new year.
In a letter to the Municipality of North Cowichan, which owns the 2.9 acres of property on Canada Avenue where the detachment is currently located, Society President Paul Fletcher said there are several benefits in building a constructed wetland at the site.
They include creating critical new habitat for salmon and providing flood deterrents in an area that floods regularly.
“We are making this request now since the Canada Avenue rebuild is in the design stage and, should the building and underlying ground be removed for the wetland construction, it would be important to include the future needs of the wetland in the current planning for the Canada Avenue improvements,” Fletcher said.
“We are also making this request now as a hydrological study is planned for the area and it is important that a potential wetland construction project in the area be included within the hydrological study parameters.”
The municipal property at 6060 Canada Ave. was once part of a larger wetland that was filled, causing Bings Creek to be diverted to each side of the property and eliminating the single stream that existed before the filling.
Flood issues in the area subsequently increased with the diversion of the creek to two arms flowing eastwards through small culverts under Canada Avenue.
“The constructed wetland is a great opportunity to return the property to what it once was, a large thriving wetland for fish and flood management,” Fletcher said.
The constructed wetland project would be the SMWS’s second wetland construction project in partnership with North Cowichan since completing the Beverly Street wetland project that already treats a significant amount of downtown Duncan and North Cowichan’s urban storm water runoff.
Fletcher said future constructed wetland projects are also being considered for the north end of the conservation area to treat the Cowichan Commons storm water runoff and to manage the future runoff from the Bell McKinnon area as development increases in conjunction with the new hospital that will be built there.
At North Cowichan’s council meeting on Dec. 16, CAO Ted Swabey said staff are preparing a report with options for what to do with the property that will be presented to council in 2021.
He said those options will likely include selling it, returning the entire property to wetland, or returning a portion of it to wetland and using the rest for housing.
Swabey said the costs of each of the options, and the costs of reclamation work and the removal of the RCMP building, will also be presented to council at a later date.