Highway project must answer environmental concerns 

DFO, CEAA, Health Canada say details, alternatives lacking

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans would attempt to shut down the Sea to Sky Highway project if environmental standards were not being met or any species of flora and fauna were threatened, according to Sue Farlinger.

Concerns were raised last week when the DFO, Health Canada and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency released a report which criticized the Ministry of Transportation for its handling of some environmental aspects on the Sea to Sky project.

The report includes concerns that the engineers have not provided adequate detail about fish habitat or an explanation of what alternatives there might be to destroying some native habitat.

While the report is damning, those who are intimately involved with the $600 million highway project maintain it is still on track for environmental certification and will be finished in time for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Farlinger, who is the DFO’s Regional Director for Habitat and Enhancement, said these kinds of reports have to be expected on a $600 million project.

"What’s happening now is in fact just what needs to be happening," Farlinger said.

"It’s actually quite straight forward. It’s just a process of us working through every area where there is potentially fish habitat; it’s just that that can be a long process."

With numerous stream crossings along the length of the highway government agencies are maintaining a close vigil on what, where and how the flora and fauna is being managed on the proposed route for the highway.

But the Sea to Sky project is certainly not the only project to be threatened by environmental concerns in the lead up to an Olympic event.

Three years before the Sydney Olympics began the discovery of an endangered species of frog shut down the Olympic Homebush Bay site and, for a time, it threatened to shut down the entire project.

The discovery of the rare Green and Golden Bellfrog in an abandoned brick pit in the Rockdale wetlands, which is where the main Sydney Olympic venues were built, was an exciting development for researchers but it became a nightmare for developers and Games organizers.

The brick pit was one of only 12 known breeding grounds for that species and developers were forced to spend an extra $1 million to ensure that the frogs’ habitat was maintained.

Farlinger maintained that if such a problem existed along the proposed route for the Sea to Sky Highway then the DFO would probably have already identified it.

"I wouldn’t say that there’s not going to be a problem with any number of species, and we would take action if there was," she said. "But if there was going to be a major problem then I think we would have identified them by now and there’s nothing like that showing up on our scopes right now.

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