One of Victorias most scenic roads could become another battleground for Greater Victorias controversial sewage treatment project.
Critics of the $783 million plan are claiming a new pipe from Clover Point to Ogden Point will mean digging up and potentially damaging Dallas Road and part of Beacon Hill Park.
But the Capital Regional District, and a Victoria councillor, are firing back, calling the claims fear-mongering and untrue.
The CRDs own planning maps do show a proposed pipe coming from an existing sewage pumping station at Clover Point, and running west along Dallas Road to Ogden Point, where it would then go underwater to a planned treatment facility at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt.
A contract to survey the ocean floor conditions where the pipe could run was approved by the CRD sewage committee last week.
Elizabeth Woodworth, a researcher from the ARESST sewage group opposed to the CRDs plan, said a retired wastewater engineer has told her the new pipe could be as wide as Dallas Road and four metres deep, requiring the scenic route to be dug up and a portion of south Beacon Hill Park potentially damaged.
Its an almost inconceivably enormous project for Dallas Road, Woodworth said. I cant see how this project wouldnt really impact the park.
The digging could disrupt the roots of nearby trees, damage paths and green space, disturb unknown First Nations archeological sites and potentially harm bird and animal habitats, she said.
Woodworth recently emailed her concerns to a number of Greater Victoria mayors and council members.
Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt, who sits on the CRDs sewage committee, called Woodworths comments fear-mongering.
I think its another one of ARESSTs Hail Mary passes trying to find a reason to turn the public against the obligation to treat our sewage, he said.
The CRD is looking at a relatively small pressurized pipe with a trench that would be about 1.5 metres wide and nowhere near the size of the road, said Jack Hull, interim sewage treatment project director.
Its not unusual; there are pipes that size within the region, he said.
Work likely wouldnt start until 2014, or even 2015, and would follow the road and not veer into Beacon Hill Park, Hull said. The treatment system is scheduled to be operational by 2018.
The City of Victoria is looking at whether eventual Dallas Road work could be used to improve the existing walkway into a better mixed-use path for cyclists and other users, Isitt said.
Were not talking about tearing out a section of forest, or camas meadow or tearing out the bluffs if anything, theres going to be an environmental benefit by getting much better infrastructure for walking and cycling and probably increased green space, he said.
City of Victoria spokeswoman Katie Josephson said the CRD has committed to consulting with the city parks and engineering departments as plans proceed.
The Friends of Beacon Hill Society, charged with preserving the almost
130-year-old park, is watching the issue closely and expects more details and consultation before anything happens, chairman Roy Fletcher said.