Editorial: Compensation for James Bay

The people of James Bay will endure months of construction and might have to live with odours wafting from the new sewage plant across the harbour. They should get something in exchange — and they will.

Construction of the Capital Regional District’s new sewage plant at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt will disrupt life in that community, but changes to pipes in Victoria will also tear up the landscape in Fairfield and James Bay.

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James Bay residents, supported by Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt, said they should get some compensation for the upheaval to their lives, especially as other neighbourhoods are getting new amenities. They have a point.

On Thursday, city council voted to set aside $100,000. Staff will consult with residents on how to spend the money.

The biggest construction headaches will land on Esquimalt, and that is reflected in the CRD’s commitment to a $20-million amenity package for the township.

Those headaches will be more painful than originally thought, because Esquimalt will allow construction materials to travel by truck through its streets. The previous plan called for barging the heavy loads to avoid noise and damage to streets.

Instead, the township elected to put the $8 million to $9 million earmarked for barging and related facilities into a $17-million amenity reserve for improvements to parks, recreation facilities and public safety.

As part of the amenity package, several streets will get improvements totalling $950,000. When all those trucks have finished busting up the pavement, any damaged roads will be rebuilt as good as new — or better.

Esquimalt will receive some other incentives, including a $55,000 annual payment in lieu of property taxes, an upgraded pump station at Macaulay Point, upgraded air filters for local schools and $100,000 for public art.

Further east, Victoria gets a few goodies as crews build a new pipe running underground along Dallas Road to Ogden Point, then under the Victoria Harbour to the new treatment plant. They include a three-metre-wide bike path from Clover Point, a public viewing plaza at Clover Point, at least four new benches, facilities for bicycle maintenance and repair, bike racks, a water fountain and public washrooms.

That’s all very well, say James Bay residents, but most of that is in Fairfield. When the machines start drilling to put the pipe under the harbour, James Bay will be saddled with living in a construction zone for months.

Any noise and odour from that work and the construction across the water will be carried on the prevailing winds into the neighbourhood that already feels afflicted by cruise ships, tour buses and regular hordes of runners. Modern sewage plants are supposed to be almost odour-free, but if this one isn’t, James Bay will smell it as much or more than Esquimalt will.

“Given that the region has opened up the purse strings … and has been fairly generous in terms of amenities in relation to this project, I think consideration has to be given to do something for James Bay,” Isitt told members of the CRD’s sewage committee.

He suggested a new public washroom would be welcomed by residents and tourists alike. To say nothing of being a good fit for a sewage project.

It’s a reasonable request, as city councillors saw when they considered the question last week.

And what about compensation when Saanich’s roads are ripped up to bury the sludge line to the Hartland Road landfill? Let’s figure that out sooner rather than later.

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