Residents rally to protect Retta Lake’s drinking water 

SLRD supports Daisy Lake bypass option

Proposed upgrades of Highway 99 could put hundreds of residents in Black Tusk Village and Pinecrest Estates at risk.

Residents say the highway upgrades could impact Retta Lake, the drinking water source that lies only three metres from the highway. In addition, the proposed upgrades do not recognize a growing safety concern for the people living in these communities south of Whistler.

"The welfare and safety of our communities are at stake," said Brent Harley, at a presentation to the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District board meeting on Monday.

Harley, along with a dozen residents of Pinecrest and Black Tusk, was before the SLRD board looking for support for another highway upgrade option for that particular stretch of highway.

The Pinecrest/Black Tusk Highway Committee has proposed an option they call the Daisy Lake Bypass, which would shift Highway 99 further east.

This shift would move the highway further away from Retta Lake, which is at risk just because of its proximity to the highway, said Harley. The lake is the primary water source for Pinecrest residents and the back up source for Black Tusk residents.

The move east would lessen the chance of the drinking water getting contaminated from a highway accident or from snowplow spray or drainage from the highway vehicles spilling salt, oils, and vehicle emissions.

It would also help mitigate any threat from a deliberate contamination with a prank.

The Daisy Lake Bypass would also eliminate the four entrances from the highway, leaving one entry point with a traffic light that would lead to both residential communities, the Brew Creek Lodge and the Black Tusk Village Water Supply and Disinfecting Station.

This would establish a safe access and egress to and from the highway and lessen the growing safety concerns for Black Tusk and Pinecrest residents.

Over the years the volume of traffic along the highway has increased, along with the number of accidents and the incidents of speeding.

Harley said there have been three deaths on the highway in that area, as well as a number of "close calls" of cars almost driving into the lake.

This pattern is likely to continue as Whistler’s success continues, he said.

Last year the Ministry of Transportation engaged a company to complete a comparative analysis of three alignment options. The recommendation from that analysis was that the most cost-effective option was to upgrade the existing alignment.

Harley said the committee finds the conclusions in the report to be "flawed and contradictory" and as such members are trying to drum up support for the Daisy Lake Bypass option.

Peter Milburn, the executive director with the Sea to Sky upgrade project, said the Ministry of Transportation is aware of the concerns from residents in the two communities.

"We’re aware of the concerns and we’re working with design options to try and make sure we’re dealing with the public’s concerns in those areas and we’ll go back to them with some options for discussions, prior to making decisions," he said.

Milburn could not talk about the technical aspects of the different designs yet but he said they would be ready next month for community consultation.

"We’ll have done some evaluation on how (the options) meet the performance goals for the highway and also accommodate what the desires of the community are," said Milburn.

Harley said their goals, as two sustainable self-reliant communities, are to be able to provide safe water for their families and safe access and egress to the highway. He got a rousing round of applause at the end of his presentation from the residents who had gone to the SLRD board meeting in Pemberton to hear his presentation.

Both communities have been sustainable since they were built, maintaining and rebuilding their sewer treatment plants and improving their trails, beaches and recreational amenities, among other things.

Pinecrest has a population of 300 residents and was established in 1977. Black Tusk was established four years later with roughly 360 residents. In each community about half of the residents live there full-time.

The SLRD Board supported their proposal and agreed to send a letter to the provincial government, asking them to give serious consideration to the Daisy Lake Bypass design option.

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