Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes told Grange Road residents he believes sewage project officials will find a way to save their Garry oak trees.
Haynes made the remarks Saturday as he toured the street, lined with mature Garry oaks and Douglas firs, with about 60 residents and seven members of council.
A 19.3-kilometre pipe between the new McLoughlin Point regional sewage treatment plant and Hartland landfill will run through the area, carrying solids left over from treatment.
Residents thought the pipe would run down the middle of the road.
Many became upset when they learned that the plan involved going under the sidewalk and removing of 29 trees “with severe impacts and possible removal of another 20,” said area resident Simon McVaugh-Smock.
Although open houses were held last week, members of council were caught off guard by the plan, said Coun. Susan Brice.
“So we were delighted that we were advised by the community of what potentially was happening and we’ve all been in contact with CRD staff and they have been in contact with the project board,” Brice said.
“At least I can say: ‘You have been heard.’ I think that’s the very first important step. Because after you’re heard, obviously there will be, hopefully, something positive. Good on you.”
The project team says they are re-evaluating the location of the pipe, moving it to a location where it would cause the least disruption to the trees, said Haynes.
Marigold Road is a possible alternate route since it doesn’t involve tree removal “but the intent right now is that Grange would be the go-to position because of costs,” said Haynes.
The original plan to put the pipeline under the trees also called for a significant upgrade to the sidewalk. But residents who joined the tour of the tree canopy on Grange Road said they’re happy with the more rural asphalt sidewalk already in place.
Haynes said the project team is trying to save the trees and keep the rural sidewalk.
“But one of the problems we have is that when you do any roadwork of this kind, there’s no guarantee what’s going to happen,” he said. “But the aim will be zero damage to the trees, with a rural sidewalk.”
The project team has tried to reduce construction time, reduce construction costs and reduce blasting, said Haynes. And relocating the pipe will add to costs.
The new Saanich mayor said he’s “highly optimistic” there will be a good announcement for residents on Wednesday or Thursday.
“One of the issues the project team is dealing with is the paperwork already in place. It has to be redone again, retweaked, redone, because it’s not so straightforward to just stop one thing and do another thing.”
Biologist Jared Hobbs, who does not live on Grange Road, told the group that a number of rare bird species, protected under the Migratory Bird Convention Act, migrate through the area. The birds use Garry oak canopies as stop-over feeding habitat. “It’s super rich for that,” Hobbs said.