New highway runs into next election
Green Party leader Jane Sterk says voters won't stand for damage to be done by South Fraser Perimeter Road
Sandor Gyarmati, The Delta Optimist
The damage the South Fraser Perimeter Road will cause to Burns Bog will be a big issue in next year's provincial election, says the leader of B.C.'s Green Party.
Last Friday, Jane Sterk participated in a tour of the planned alignment of the highway organized by the Gateway 40 Citizens Network. Members of the Farmland Defence League of B.C., who wanted to highlight the impacts to farmland, as well as North Delta residents, who wanted to show what would happen in their neighbourhoods, accompanied her.
Also of interest to Sterk is what constructing a four-lane roadway adjacent to the Burn Bog will mean to the sensitive ecosystem. B.C. Green Party leader Jane Sterk (right), who toured the alignment of South Fraser Perimeter Road last week, says Delta council should invoke a dispute resolution process in the Burns Bog covenant.
In an interview with the Optimist following her tour, Sterk said there's no doubt there would be damage because the road will be built on the bog's important lagg zone. She said the lack of consultation and the single-minded determination of the government to push through the road, which will stretch from Roberts Bank to Highway 1, would be an issue during next May's provincial election.
"There are issues related to congestion in the Lower Mainland and south of the Fraser. That congestion is typically north-south, not east-west, and so there are questions that need to be asked," she said.
"There will be a confluence of all these groups that have formed who will ask the politicians the right questions. I would be surprised if there wasn't a change in the number of MLAs because of it."
A majority of Delta council agreed this fall not to seek an outside legal opinion on the alignment of the South Fraser Perimeter Road.
Former councillors Krista Engelland and Vicki Huntington brought forward a motion during discussion about a dispute resolution mechanism in a covenant created at the time Burns Bog was purchased by four levels of government.
Several community groups, including the Burns Bog Conservation Society, urged council to pursue the dispute resolution process. However, civic staff noted the covenant only applies to the land within the designated conversancy area.
Sterk said the covenant was clearly put in place to protect the bog and the highway will impact the bog in such a way as to threaten its existence over time.
"There are Delta properties, so I think, clearly, (Delta) council can take a stand and invoke the covenant and ask for resolution amongst the parties."
Saying the highway will impact environmental, farmland and community values, Sterk believes the government is miscalculating if it thinks people won't talk about it in the provincial election.
"You have a huge number of groups that have formed as a result of this project that are expressing community values and environmental values. There's simply no other forum in which they get heard, so they're finding creative ways to make sure people know that there are issues here not being dealt with."
According to the provincial Gateway Program, consideration has been given to the community benefit, agricultural enhancements and Burns Bog.
Gateway notes early work on the highway has already begun in Surrey. Road design and construction is planned for 2009 through 2012, with completion in December of 2012.
© The Delta Optimist 2008