There will be more trees cut or topped in the name of safety at Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Elvio Pecchia, airport manager, appeared before council Tuesday, displaying maps covered with dozens of red dots – each representing trees considered hazardous.
Pecchia explained the trees “infringe on our obstacle limitation zone,” and the airport manager is required by regulations to ensure trees removed or topped.
He noted that even service poles near the runway have even been trimmed by B.C. Hydro, at the request of the airport.
The last tree-trimming exercise, along the Fraser River near the airport’s main entrance, angered area residents, who called it a clear-cut, and questioned whether it was necessary.
Pitt Meadows Mayor John Becker noted that the city has “no say” about the tree removal, but asked Pecchia what authorization the airport needs to cut trees.
The YPK manager answered that he informs the city, dike inspector, and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, as best practices, but added, “Essentially, we have the authority to take them down.”
Coun. Tracy Miyashita noted that she has never seen so much tree trimming at the airport on her time on council, and asked whether there is a new policy or standard?
“It’s definitely not a new regulation,” Pecchia answered.
Miyashita asked whether any parts of the warehouses being constructed by Onni in South Bonson are in the obstacle zone.
The airport manager said he had the plans surveyed to ensure there were no obstacles due to building heights.
Coun. Bill Dingwall also questioned the sudden need to remove so many trees.
“Trees don’t grow that fast. Why the urgency?”
He also noted that many of the trees considered hazardous are not directly in the flight path to the runway.
Pecchia responded that many of the trees should have been dealt with years ago. He said the majority are cottonwoods, which he called “technically a weed,” in that they grow fast, can grow anywhere, grow in angle directions and break as they get older.
A professional aviation engineer has done the analysis of which trees need to be removed, he added.
Council allowed questions from audience members who came for the presentation.
Patricia Gordon asked about birds nesting in trees before cutting, noting there were osprey and eagles nests that need to be protected.
Pecchia said he hired an environmental firm to assess the area, and ensure the tree removal would not harm wildlife. Based on its recommendations, removal of trees was staggered two months, in consideration of wildlife.
He said there is no intent to clear-cut, rather the airport has identified and isolated each tree that will be cut or trimmed.
Coun. Janis Elkerton noted that in 23 years on council it was the first time the airport has made a presentation about tree management, and suggested that community members who live near the airport be on airport committees to improve communication.