Alex Browne photo Some 36 conifers on the site of the Oxford pumping station on Goggs Avenue will be cut in December in preparation for construction of a new water treatment plant.

Trees to fall for White Rock water treatment plant

Some 36 conifers marked for removal at Oxford pumping station site

Three dozen mature trees adjacent to the Oxford Reservoir in White Rock won’t last until Christmas of this year.

The trees – near Goggs Avenue behind The Royce condominium development – are to be removed in December to make way for the City of White Rock’s new water treatment plant, according to a report from utilities, engineering and municipal operations manager Dr. Saad Jasim, presented to council Monday night.

Engineering and municipal operations director Jim Gordon explained that while the proposal for the plant selected is “the one that has the smallest footprint” – in keeping with the city’s intention to minimize tree removal – 36 trees, along with undergrowth, will have to come down.

The report led to an exchange between Coun. David Chesney and chief administrative officer Dan Bottrill in which Chesney pressed Bottrill for whether all options had been fully explored.

“When went through this whole process about the Oxford land, we applauded and lauded ourselves about how great a job we were doing in protecting this stand of trees, and that this was one of the last stands outside of the Duprez Ravine where we have a coniferous cover,” Chesney said.

Bottrill, however, said he believes the stand of trees Chesney was referring to was part of another adjacent “.92 acres of property that is to be transferred to the city from the (Elegant) project on Oxford.”

“It wasn’t this stand of trees,” he said, adding that while different options were considered for the water treatment plant, “this is the site (where it) needs to take place.”

“It appears to me that you’ve kind of skirted (that) issue of answering directly,” Chesney said. “Is there no other place on this piece of property where this plant could go? Is it being moved to the eastern side to keep it as far away from the development that’s going to be happening? And is there no other way that we could design, camouflage, a living wall, or whatever it might be, to save these trees and move this plant to another part of the property?”

“I don’t mean to skirt the issue at all,” Bottrill responded. “There is a limited amount of land that we have in our water utility, and this is the location.”

Jasim’s report states the trees will be coming down following a sod-turning ceremony at the site tentatively planned for Dec. 14.

It says the trees have been identified for removal through a standard process, including an arborist’s report, a co-ordinated site development plan and a city tree-management permit.

Trees along the perimeter, including a “buffer” along Goggs Avenue, will be retained, the report says, while measures will be taken to retain as many trees as possible east of the building.

Gordon said that while Jasim’s report states $108,000 – $3,000 per tree – will be placed in the city’s reserve fund, “we’re planning to replant trees rather than place the money in the fund.”

Following questions from Coun. Lynne Sinclair on how such shifting of funds would affect budgeting for the project, Botrill said options – which could include assigning money to the reserve for tree planting elsewhere in the city – are still under review.

“At the end of the day we want to make sure that we’re utilizing the best process for the city and placing us in a good financial position.”

Coun. Megan Knight asked what the city was planning to do with the lumber.

“That’s a lot of trees – (I’m) just wondering where they’re going,” she said.

Gordon said that the possibility of selling them as timber was “something we’ll be looking at as we move forward… To my uneducated eyes they look like pretty good trees.”

The report also noted that the city has done due diligence in checking with the Provincial Archaelogy Branch whether any archaelogical sites have been identified on the property, and has sent project information to Semiahmoo First Nation and four other local First Nations.

It said that while there are no known archaelogical sites on the property, and no further archaelogical investigation is planned, the contractor “will be requested to proceed cautiously during excavation.” Work will be halted and Archaelogical Branch procedures will be followed if any archaelogical remains are found, the report adds.

The $14.2 million water treatment plant – which is to reduce naturally occurring arsenic and manganese deposits to microgram amounts well under Canadian drinking water guidelines – is scheduled for completion in 2019.

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