Work stoppage on Calgary ring road upheld after environmental appeal

Alberta's Environmental Appeals Board has maintained a stay on construction for certain segments of the $1.4 billion southwest Calgary ring road relating to five wetlands in the Weaselhead area.

The Environmental Appeals Boards says stay on construction related to 5 wetlands will continue pending hearing

Allie Tulick, spokesperson for YYC Cares, says it's been a struggle for the organization to have its appeals heard. (Scott Dippel/CBC)

Alberta's Environmental Appeals Board has maintained a stay on construction for certain segments of the $1.4 billion southwest Calgary ring road. 

KGL Constructors, the company responsible for building a bridge over the Elbow River, was granted a permit to permanently fill 24 wetlands in the Weaselhead area in order to complete the project.

Appeals filed by citizens were accepted by the board and led to an initial stay on construction on August 11.

On Friday, the board upheld the stay in relation to five wetlands.

Allowed to appeal

YYC Cares is the organization trying to prevent the construction of the berm-style bridge through the park. Spokesperson Allie Tulick says the contractor tried to argue her group had no standing in making the appeals, because they don't live in the transportation utility corridor. 

"My argument was, well, nobody lives in the TUC except for the wildlife and abandoned pets, is actually what I said to them. And so we demonstrated enough to the appeals board liking that we do actually have standing," she said. 

The group argues construction of the berm crossing — and related work to re-route the river and fill over some wetlands — will irreparably harm an environmentally sensitive area between Highway 8 (Glenmore Trail) and Highway 22X, including some 24 wetlands.

Getting this far

YYC Cares has been calling for the proposed crossing to be re-configured as an open span bridge, which would allow water to pass under the freeway unrestricted.

The group says construction has already damaged the Beaver Pond wetland, which is one of the areas still covered under the stay. 

Tulick said even getting this far with the group's appeals has been onerous. 

"To go through this appeal process and achieve this is borderlining on a miracle, if I can say that. But it's a really tough process so there is a victory in it," she said. 

Competing interests

The EAB said it was aware of the competing interests at play and the pressure to resolve the matter as quickly as possible. 

"These interests include ensuring that the Appellants' appeal rights are respected, balanced against the potential effect on the Approval Holder's construction timeline and the financial consequences arising for any changes to this timeline," reads the statement. 

Chief among the concerns is the agreement between the province and the Tsuut'ina, which stipulated that if certain construction deadlines were not met, ownership of the land could revert back to the First Nation. 

There will be a hearing to determine the merits of the appeals which lead to the temporary stays "on an expedited basis," according to the board. 

Tulick says YYC Cares wants a meeting with Alberta's transportation minister, and plans to step up efforts to get one. 

With files from Dianne Yanko and Terri Trembath