'Holy smokes, this is not going to happen': Saanich residents outraged over plan to remove dozens of trees

The Capital Regional District is installing a 19-kilometre pipe to convey residual solids from the new sewage treatment plant at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt to the Hearland landfill in Saanich. The planned route would see part of that pipe buried under Grange Road, which is lined with trees including Garry oaks.

District says at least 50 trees, including Garry oaks, may have to come down to install sewage pipe

Simon McVaugh-Smock has started a green ribbon campaign to draw attention to the trees that could be lost in his neighbourhood due to construction for a new sewage treatment system. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

Residents of a Saanich, B.C., neighbourhood are outraged over a plan that would see dozens of trees cut down on their leafy street.

The Capital Regional District (CRD) is installing a 19-kilometre pipe to convey residual solids from the new sewage treatment plant at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt to the Hartland landfill in Saanich.

The planned route would see part of that pipe buried under Grange Road, just northwest of the city boundary with Victoria. 

But people who live in the neighbourhood say they can't understand why their tree-lined street was chosen when construction could require the removal of 50 or more trees.

"Are you kidding? Holy smokes, this is not going to happen. How long did it take to create this beautiful environment? And we lose it?," said Robin Duncan, who has lived in the neighbourhood for 40 years.

Grange Road in Saanich is lined with trees, including Garry oaks. (Megan Thomas/CBC )

Her neighbour Simon McVaugh-Smock has started a campaign to tie green ribbons around trees on the street to highlight what could be lost, including highly valued Garry oaks.

"The city is characterized by beauty and a rural feel and trees, not by taking all of those features out, especially with the Garry oak ecosystem," he said.

"There is some concern, at least on my part, that people will feel like it's NIMBYism on our part. But I feel like this is Victoria's backyard and this is one part of the whole cityscape."

The CRD says Grange Road was chosen for the pipe for a number of reasons, including to minimize construction impacts such as blasting.

Review of plan

The construction along Grange Road will allow for the installation of sidewalks, curbs and gutters.

The plan for the entire route of the pipe does also call for two trees to be planted for every tree that is removed due to construction, at the discretion of the municipalities.

But that measure is of little comfort for people worried about losing the mature trees on Grange Road, Duncan said.

In light of the concerns, CRD staff are taking another look at the plan, said Elizabeth Scott, deputy project director for the CRD wastewater treatment project

"We have heard from residents about the work along Grange Road and are reviewing our plans for this section of construction to determine if there are any feasible options to reduce the impacts to trees," she said. 

People who live in the area have mobilized to fight a plan to remove trees during construction for a sewage line. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

Some in the neighbourhood also question why they were not directly notified about the plan to remove trees.

The CRD held two open houses last month and sent invites to homes in the area. 

But McVaugh-Smock says he only heard about the loss of the trees because a neighbour saw construction workers painting markings on the road and started asking questions.

"There should have been more consultation on a plan that could so drastically change the character of a residential street," he said.

"I was kind of dismayed and horrified that that was the way that I heard about it — not through official channels."

Alternative routes

District of Saanich Coun. Ned Taylor is calling on project staff take another look at the route for the sewage pipe, and as a director representing Saanich on the CRD board, he plans to raise the issue.

"It is particularly concerning for me because we are potentially losing a good portion of our urban tree canopy," he said.

"I think we need to be taking a good hard look at some alternative routes."

Any changes to the plan will have to happen quickly. Construction on Grange Road is expected to begin in February or March.

The $765 million sewage treatment project started taking shape in 2017 after decades of debate over the project in Greater Victoria.