Industrial proposal at edge of Burns Bog sparks concern among environmentalists

Delta city council has given preliminary approval to an industrial development proposal bordering Burns Bog but local conservationists say there are serious environmental concerns with the plan.

It’s 'the last thing we should be doing,' says president of conservation society

Burns Bog is the largest undeveloped urban landmass in North America. (Katie Bianchin/Burns Bog Conservation Society )

Conservationists have expressed serious concerns about an industrial development bordering Burns Bog that was given preliminary approval by Delta city council.

The proposed development site is at Pineland Peat, an industrial-zoned plot of land on the southern edge of the bog, which was designated as an Ecological Conservancy Area in 2004. 

But local conservationists want to see the area regenerated as part of the bog rather than industrially developed, which they say could have knock-on effects on the area's ecology and wildlife.

Burns Bog is the largest undeveloped urban landmass in North America — at around 3,000 hectares, it's almost eight times bigger than Vancouver's Stanley Park — and has been described by ecologists as the "lungs of Metro Vancouver."

Beedie Development Group has proposed to build a heavy industry business park at Pineland Peat, which had previously been used as a demolition landfill site. 

"The last thing we should be doing is putting a heavy industrial site next to the conservation area," said Eliza Olson, founder and president of Burns Bog Conservation Society.

Eliza Olson with the Burns Bog Conservation Society is opposed to the project. (CBC)

Fires, rare species

The main concern, Olson told The Early Edition host Stephen Quinn, is the impact a neighbouring heavy industry project might have on the ecology of the bog, a wetland that's piled high with peat. 

"If you think of a bog as a giant sponge and you stick a rock on it, you press all the water out and water is key," Olson said.

If the bog becomes dried out, she said, it becomes more vulnerable to fires. A large fire broke out in summer 2016, burning through the peat and damaging the bog. 

The bog also hosts a wide variety of plants and wildlife that could be affected by air, noise and light pollution, including a number of rare and endangered species.

It's one of two nesting sites in the Lower Mainland for the sandhill crane. 

A helicopter prepares to drop water on a fire burning at Burns Bog in Delta, B.C., on Sunday, July 3, 2016. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

City 'advocate' of bog

Delta Mayor Lois Jackson said she shares the community's passion for protecting the bog.

She was heavily involved in the negotiations that led to the creation of the legally binding conservation covenant to protect the area in 2004.

"There's nobody more of an advocate than I am," she said.

In this case though, she said, the area under question is privately owned and has been zoned as industrial land for years. 

"This is a project that has come forward from the current owner," Jackson said. "What we are basically doing is bringing it into conformity."

A "long and lengthy study" was conducted that examines the impact of the project on both the nearby ecological as well as agricultural land, she said. Several guidelines, such as building environmental buffers and ditches, were listed.

A public hearing for the development will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 20, at 7 p.m. 

Delta city council have given preliminary approval to an industrial development proposal bordering Burns Bog but local conservationists say there are serious environmental concerns with the plan. 11:08

With files from The Early Edition.