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Exploratory work begins for tower replacement on Saanich mountaintop

Conservationists still concerned about the impact on views
The tower on PKOLS (formerly Mount Douglas) in Saanich is set to be replaced. The new location may potentially be in the middle of the parking area shown in the foreground. (Mark Page/News Staff)

Work has begun near the summit of PKOLS (formerly Mount Douglas) to find a location for a new communications tower, much to the chagrin of a local conservationist concerned about the esthetic impacts of the new 40-metre-high antenna.

A spokesperson from the District of Saanich gave an explanation of what was being done on Tuesday (Feb. 13) in an email to Black Press Media.

“Information gathering is underway which includes geotechnical exploratory digging in a small area of the summit,” spokesperson Tracy Grimsrud wrote.

According to Grimsrud, the specific location of the tower is not yet finalized, and updates will be posted as the project progresses.

Darrell Wick of the PKOLS-Mount Douglas Conservancy has been vocal about his concerns over the effect a new tower will have on the view in the parking area, which is where he believes the plan is to put the new tower. He would rather the new tower go in near the old one, which is in a rocky area about 20 metres from the parking lot.

“Exact location is undecided, so long as it’s within the parking area,” Wick wrote in a Feb. 13 email after he noticed work trucks and a drill rig at the site. “Both the contractor and Saanich staff told me today they have no mandate to consider the summit location near the existing tower.”

The next day, the drilling rig was gone from the site, but only one recently covered hole was visible from the exploratory digging — and it was in the middle of the parking lot.

The patched hole after work crews had left. (Mark Page/News Staff)

Information from the district says the site is still undecided, but does note there are “significant barriers to replacing the tower in the current location.”

According to the district, the tower is a critical part of cellphone and public safety communication infrastructure for the region and must be replaced due to new regulatory standards coming into effect in 2025.

The new tower will be significantly heavier than the old version, which makes it difficult to place in the same location.

Wick says the process for the tower replacement has so far been “very secretive,” and has not considered the esthetics of the park.

The schedule for the project put out by the district says the geotechnical and structural engineering reports from this early phase of work will be presented to Saanich council in April, with public notice going out sometime in April or May. If everything goes according to plan, the new tower should be finished in August.

READ MORE: Users of popular Saanich park fear proposed tower will ruin its ‘aesthetics’

About the Author: Mark Page

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