November 09, 2005

Burnaby Lake 'Ecosystem Enhancement' Means Rowing Ditch

I attended a Burnaby Lake Rejuvenation Project public meeting tonight, and came away with a bad taste in my mouth. The city is working hard to spin the $26.5 million plan as an environmental project when it basically calls for dredging a long rectangular ditch down the center of the lake for a rowing course.

I was taken aback to read the project's November 2005 newsletter, which baldly states: "The primary objective of the project is to provide long-term protection and enhancement of the lake ecosystem, fish passage and wildlife habitat by removing approximately 360,000 m3 of sediment in the lake through dredging. The secondary objective of the project is to restore the open water area and create better opportunities for rowing activities."

Funny how that primary "ecosystem" objective is being achieved by dredging that long rectangular ditch down the middle of the lake.

I felt bad for city staff who were left to answer questions, with nary a politician in sight -- conveniently there was an all-candidates meeting for the upcoming civic election on the other side of town.

OK, so say there could be some ecosystem benefits. But what might the costs be? The sediment to be dredged is loaded with pollutants including heavy metals. They are now contained in the lake bottom, but dredging will stir them up.

And how will the sediment be disposed of? The estimate was 50,000 dump trucks of sediment will be removed. If even half of it has to go to a landfill capable of containing pollutants, that's a lot of trucking -- easily a third or more of the projected budget for the whole project -- not to mention the environmental impact of all those trucks roaring around for three or more years.

As a local taxpayer, I wonder about that $26.5 million budget. How many years has that figure been bandied about already? We all know that construction-related costs have been soaring. Transport-related costs have also been soaring. And how many millions have already been spent on this project for all of the engineering and environmental studies? Nobody at the meeting could answer these basic questions.

I think the city has to come clean and present this issue to taxpayers as what it really is -- an elite rowing course that will likely end up costing a lot more than $26.5 million.

This figure also doesn't include new or overhauled rowing facilities. How many more millions will that cost? Apparently no thought has gone into that phase yet....

Posted by Paul at November 9, 2005 07:50 PM