Bogged down 

Three weeks later, still no answers on what B.C. Transits 'environmental assessment' of B.C. Hydro’s land means

click to enlarge A Pond in Transit? Rocket and Kelly Richards with their dog Mojo in front of Nesters Pond. Photo by Claire Piech
  • A Pond in Transit? Rocket and Kelly Richards with their dog Mojo in front of Nesters Pond. Photo by Claire Piech

Since moving from Burnaby into their quaint home overlooking Nesters Pond nine years ago, Rocket and Kelly Richards have seen a host of wildlife wander into the area, including bears, coyotes, bobcats, geese — and otters.

Over the years, the couple has taken snap shots with a digital camera clearly depicting these animals playing in the water during summer months, and walking over the ice in the winter.

Unfortunately, the vibrant ecosystem the Richards love at Nesters Pond faces a very real threat: the possible relocation of Whistler's transit station onto the wetland complex.

Over the past three weeks, B.C. Transit has been quietly conducting a geotechnical analysis of the area to see if the land is suitable to pave over and erect a hub for Whistler’s new fleet of 20 hydrogen buses coming in 2009, along with a hydrogen fueling station. Described as an “environmental assessment”, the analysis has seen an eight-metre dirt road cut jaggedly into the forest immediately adjacent to the wetland complex to allow large machines to roll in and drill holes deep into the soil.

"I am shocked," said Kelly Richards from her home on Nesters Road.

"If this is sustainable, then I don't understand sustainability."

According to B.C. Transit representative Chris Lythgo, the analysis has finished and a report of the findings is now being prepared. But as late as Tuesday morning, men wearing red waterproof suites and carrying machetes were still walking through the area, hacking at the felled trees lining the dirt road. Pink flagging tape has also been tied to several spots within the wetland itself.

"There are other people in our building that aren’t happy either," said Kelly Richards.

"We are going to see what the MLA (Joan McIntyre) does. Because we are the only residents of the pond, I just don’t think anyone else in Whistler realizes what is happening."

Biologist Bob Brett said even if B.C. Transit concluded the landscape is too environmentally sensitive for the bus station, the geotechnical work done so far will still leave a scar on the environment.

He stressed the wetland complex is interconnected with the rest of Whistler's ecosystem, which is exemplified by the fact Kelly and Rocket have spotted an otter in Nesters Pond.

While otters and other large mammals like bears and coyotes can move through the valley more easily than creatures such as frogs and voles, they all require some level of connectivity, which ecologists call stepping stones.

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