British Columbia

Saanich trees spared after public outcry

The Capital Regional District has come up with a new plan for a construction project that would have forced the removal of dozens of trees on a Saanich street, including valued Garry Oaks.

New plan for installing pipe under road will protect dozens of trees, including Garry Oaks, CRD says

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

There's relief in a Saanich neighbourhood after regional officials came up with a new plan to spare dozens of trees that were in the path of a pipe that's needed as part of Greater Victoria's long-awaited sewage treatment system.

Dozens of trees, including valued Garry Oaks, line Grange Road in Saanich. Residents, such as Simon McVaugh-Smock, were appalled by the idea they could be lost.

"It was a nightmare thinking about how the street would look without the trees," he said.

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.

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

Part of that pipe is to be buried under Grange Road, just northwest of the city boundary with Victoria. 

Originally, the pipe was to be placed in an existing utility trench under the road. But accessing that trench would have required removing 50 or more trees along the street.

Push back from the neighbourhood prompted the CRD to revisit the plan. Now, the pipe will be shifted to different alignment under the road to spare the trees.

Change adds costs

The change will cost more and take longer, said deputy project director Elizabeth Scott. Residents will also have to deal with rock blasting.

"What we did hear clearly from residents was that they would prefer to have that impact than have the trees removed," she said.

"The trees are really what they hold dear to their hearts. So what we are going to do is construct the pipe slightly to the west. Through doing that, we will be able to preserve the trees."

While the final cost of making the change isn't yet known, it's expected to be covered within the project's existing budget, Scott said.

People who live near Grange Road mobilized to fight a plan to remove trees during construction for a sewage line. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

For McVaugh-Smock, the trade-off is well worth it to protect the character of the street.

"I, along with other residents that I am in communication with about this project, are just delighted with what we are hearing," he said.

The CRD will also hire an arborist to ensure all steps are taken to protect the trees during the different phases of construction. Residents are still a bit worried about whether all the trees can withstand blasting, McVaugh-Smock said.

"It's not over until it's over. But the news today is very good news," he said.

The original construction along Grange Road allowed for the installation of sidewalks, curbs and gutters. The CRD will now work with Saanich instead to see what is possible, Scott said.

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

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.