Maple Ridge News

ARMS rattled about Hydro clearing

Trees have fallen across streams in north Maple Ridge as part of the project. - Contributed
Trees have fallen across streams in north Maple Ridge as part of the project.
— image credit: Contributed

The photos of clear-cut logging taken to the edge of the streams reminded Geoff Clayton of the old days, when the bulldozers moved in and did their thing, and nature had to clean up after.

"They've just knocked it down like it was a 1920s logging show," he said Thursday.

Clayton, president of the Alouette River Management Society, said at least two local creeks in the Alouette River area of north Maple Ridge have had the vegetation stripped from their stream banks, where the right-of-way for B.C. Hydro's transmission twinning project crosses the banks.

Stripping vegetation to the edge of a stream can lead to soil erosion or siltation of the water and remove a source of nutrients for aquatic life, Clayton said.

"It is daylighting of that area of the river."

In contrast, developers in Silver Valley, south of the powerline, have to leave 30-metre-wide setbacks along streams when building suburbs.

But uphill from the houses in Silver Valley, "they've been clear-cutting right though the same creeks."

The practice is standard and is being done with care, said B.C. Hydro community relations manager Donna McGeachie.

"It's normal to bring right-of-way clearing to the edge of streams and rivers," she said in an e-mail.

Trees are felled to ensure power line reliability. And clearing hasn't yet reached the Alouette River, she added.

An area near a stream leading to the Alouette River had to have trees removed near the powerlines because of safety concerns, she said.

"The arborists assessed that in order to take the trees down safely, they had to hand clear the trees and drop them over the stream.

"Following the clearing, they began site cleanup, which is continuing."

She said that minimizing clearing and disturbance in streamside areas is No. 6 on the list of environmental commitments for the powerline project.

"We are careful to avoid putting debris into or across watercourses whenever possible and work to minimize damage to trees and banks."

However, because of the number of powerlines more trees had to be felled across the creek than normally is the case.

"This is done in a manner that minimizes damage, and removal of any logs and debris happens as quickly as possible."

McGeachie said that in stream areas, cutting is completed by hand to reduce any environmental impact.

"B.C. Hydro has operational guidelines for clearing in and around riparian areas and our contractor is following those guidelines.  The same operational guidelines apply all along the ILM (Interior to Lower Mainland) route."

However, B.C. Hydro and the contractor, Flatiron-Graham Joint Venture, are examining clearing practices that will minimize the impact of clearing for the new transmission line.

The Interior to Lower Mainland Project is a new 247-kilometre, 500 kV transmission line mostly along an existing right-of-way between Merritt and Coquitlam.

It should be in service by January 2015 and is B.C. Hydro's largest expansion project in 30 years.

B.C. Hydro is also meeting with ARMS on site to review the clearing plans.

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