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Victoria airport spending $675,000 on creek flow improvements

WATCH: Reay Creek tributary being modified to control storm surges
A retaining wall with flood control capability is going in at the lower reaches of Reay Creek. (Steven Heywood/News staff)

In an effort to control storm water runoff events from damaging downstream areas of Reay Creek, the Victoria Airport Authority is building a large water detention pond and dam.

The $675,000 project is creating a 5,000-cubic metre pond area that can hold back water from sources on the VAA property, which is useful during storms. James Bogusz, vice-president of operations and development for the VAA, says the airport has seen record growth in recent years and has expanded its impermeable surfaces — parking and aircraft tarmac space — potentially increasing runoff into the creek. The new detention pond and dam, which is being built near the BC Aviation Museum off Canora Road, will help prevent water surges from leaving the VAA property and scouring away at the banks of a downstream pond within the Town of Sidney.

That pond is the site of heavy metal contamination and is subject to a remediation effort. Transport Canada, the Town, District of North Saanich, the VAA and area residents are all involved with a working group looking at ways to clean up the pond. Heavy metal contamination in the pond was deposited there over the years since the airport was first built during the Second World War (1940s) and retained when a pond was created when an earthen dam was built on the Sidney end of the creek. Transport Canada has listed the site as a high priority for clean up and the consultation and planning for a potential clean-up continues.

The VAA has, over the years, been cleaning up its portion of the creek which is fed by other water sources coming off of the Dean Park area of North Saanich. In 2012, they built a water diversion area near Viking Air, enabling creek water to be diverted into a holding area in the event of a spill. That was put to the test successfully in 2015, when there was a chemical spill at Viking Air.

To date, Bogusz said the VAA has spent close to $1 million on Reay Creek remediation efforts, which also sought to clean up any contaminated soil along its banks. Bogusz said this latest project is being done to control water flows off VAA property, not to control contamination. Soil dug out of the detention pond area near the museum, he added, is assumed to be contaminated, and is being stored elsewhere for study and possible remediation.

The cost of the work is being funded by money generated from the VAA’s various revenue streams (ie: commercial leases) — not from any passenger fees.

The new dam will allow a normal amount of water to flow along the northern reach of Reay Creek. There is a southern stretch of the same creek on the other side of the road leading to the BC Aviation Museum. The two arms reconnect at a culvert that runs under Canora Road and drains into the pond in Sidney.

The new dam will also be able to prevent large volumes of water from overwhelming the pond, retaining those flows further upstream. The main creek channel in the area has been dug out, lined with rock and will be replanted during the second phase of the project. Bogusz said that portion of the creek does not contain fish, but the southern tributary has that potential.

“We have an expectation that not a lot of fish would be able to pass this barrier,” he said.

Bogusz said the VAA looked at a similar project back in the early to mid-2000s. After airport growth, the discovery of contamination downstream and a report on storm water flows from airport property, the detention pond idea was resurrected and put into action.

“It’s been very satisfying to see about five years of work in total come together in this project.”

Bogusz said he expects substantial progress and completion could come as early as later this fall.

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