Traffic jams on the Malahat have become a regular occurance and have generated calls for an alternate route. (file photo)

Traffic jams on the Malahat have become a regular occurance and have generated calls for an alternate route. (file photo)

An alternate route for Malahat shouldn’t go through Sooke watershed, says CRD director

Water supply safety more important than traffic fixes: Mike Hicks

The provincial Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has announced a feasibility study for an alternate, emergency route around the Malahat highway.

It’s part of what the Ministry described as a “complete, comprehensive and co-ordinated look into improving traffic flow on southern Vancouver Island”.

“We know that southern Vancouver Island is one of the fastest-growing regions in the province,” said Claire Trevena, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. “For too long, the infrastructure needs of the communities there have been ignored. It is time we start investing in long-term, innovative, multi-modal solutions to address congestion.”

As part of this work, the Ministry will explore the potential of emergency detour routes that could be activated in the event of a Malahat road closure.

In a News Release today (Jan.9) they say that they will “continue to work with stakeholders, including the Capital Regional District (CRD), to ensure all possible detour options are explored while making sure that environmental, First Nations and local community interests are understood”.

Colin Plant, CRD board chair, responded by saying, “the CRD will want to ensure the protection of the integrity of the regional water supply lands, which provide drinking water for much of our region.”

RELATED: Alternative highway plan eyed

But the announcement has raised red flags regarding the concept.

“To my understanding, they are looking for a bypass route through the CRD watershed where the Sooke Reservoir is located, and that’s a big concern to me,” said Mike Hicks, Juan de Fuca Electoral Area director. “That’s where the drinking water for the CRD, including Sooke, is located.”

Hicks said water in the reservoir is “absolutely pristine,” and to protect the area and the water supply, the area is subject to restricted access.

“They don’t let anyone into the watershed, except maybe some First Nations people for hunting purposes, so opening it up and maybe having trucks rolling through there is a really big concern. Anything getting into that water is a big concern.”

The Sooke Water Supply Area is located northwest of Victoria in the Sooke Hills and supplies water to more than 35,000 people in Greater Victoria. The area is owned by the Capital Regional District.

The area has been in active use for more than 100 years and supplies nearly all the water consumed by CRD residents.

Despite the large size of the watershed, (8,620 hectares), the storage in the Sooke Lake Reservoir is limited and dependant upon water stored during the winter months.

The pristine nature of the area and the water means the CRD is not required to spend many millions of dollars on filtration and chemical treatment, Hicks said.

“We really have to appreciate how important this water supply is. With climate change, there are droughts in the area every year; it’s really important that we protect this water.”

Chris Foord, the vice chair of the CRD Traffic Safety Commission, expressed a radically different position.

“Given that we dumped 40,000 litres of diesel fuel into the river several years ago and killed a bunch of salmon I seriously doubt that we could do worse by putting an emergency bypass road farther upstream from Goldstream River,” said Foord in an email to the Sooke News Mirror.

“My personal view, as a transportation planner, is that we need an immediate bypass that can be opened up if the Malahat was to be closed for more than an hour.”

That position is not completely at odds with Hick’s point of view, although he continues to question the wisdom of a watershed route.

Hicks said he recognizes the importance of an alternate route for the Malahat, but his preference would be to concentrate on the 300-kilometre Pacific Marine Circle Route which stretches from Victoria to Port Renfrew, Lake Cowichan and Duncan.

“If the concern is an emergency route, then you have the circle route. It would take two hours longer, and it would need some work at areas like the Deering Bridge, but it wouldn’t be going through our watershed,” Hicks said.

“We’ll have to wait and see what they come up with, but ideally, protecting our water supply should be of the highest importance.”

The report on the feasibility of a temporary activated emergency detour route is expected to be ready by spring 2019. If a suitable detour alignment is identified, future engineering work could begin in summer 2019.



editor@sookenewsmirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Carmen Robinson was last seen getting off a bus in View Royal the evening of Dec. 8, 1973. Her case remains unsolved 47 years later. (Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers)
Gone cold: Fate of View Royal teen remains a mystery, 47 years after her disappearance

Carmen Robinson, 17, was last seen exiting a bus in View Royal in December 1973

A Saanich crash has left many residences in the area without power Thursday morning. (Google Maps)
Early morning crash causes Saanich power outage

Power expected to be restored by 9:30 a.m.

Traffic will be affected as View Royal does road work from Dec. 3 to Dec. 5 on the Island Highway at Wilfert Road. (Image courtesy Town of View Royal)
Road work hinders traffic in View Royal on Island Highway at Wilfert Road

Work scheduled for Dec. 3 to 5, weather dependent

The Sooke School District is actively looking for more bus drivers after they had to cancel a handful of bus routes in late November. (Black Press Media file photo)
Bus driver shortage cancels routes in Sooke School District

More drivers needed to accomodate expanding bus routes amid pandemic

Penny Hart is calling on the community to help find her son Sean Hart who was last seen on Nov. 6 at a health institution in Saanich. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Search spreads for Saanich man missing from mental health facility for nearly a month

Family hopeful as possible sightings reported across Island and in Vancouver

(AP Photo/Paula Bronstein)
POLL: Has COVID-19 changed your plans for the holidays?

The lights are going up, the stacks of presents under the tree… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Dec. 1

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Janet Austin, the lieutenant-governor of British Columbia, not seen, swears in Premier John Horgan during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020. Horgan says he will look to fill gaps in the federal government’s sick-pay benefits program aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. premier says province prepared to patch holes in new federal sick-pay benefits

Horgan said workers should not be denied pay when they are preventing COVID-19’s spread

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation at the legislature, Nov. 30, 2020. (B.C. government)
Hockey team brought COVID-19 back from Alberta, B.C. doctor says

Dr. Bonnie Henry pleads for out-of-province travel to stop

B.C. Premier John Horgan on a conference call with religious leaders from his B.C. legislature office, Nov. 18, 2020, informing them in-person church services are off until further notice. (B.C. government)
B.C. tourism relief coming soon, Premier John Horgan says

Industry leaders to report on their urgent needs next week

An 18-year old male southern resident killer whale, J34, is stranded near Sechelt in 2016. A postmortem examination suggests he died from trauma consistent with a vessel strike. (Photo supplied by Paul Cottrell, Fisheries and Oceans Canada)
“We can do better” — humans the leading cause of orca deaths: study

B.C. research reveals multitude of human and environmental threats affecting killer whales

Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy are inviting audiences into their home for ‘A Celtic Family Christmas’. (Submitted)
Natalie MacMaster coming to you through Cowichan Performing Arts Centre

Here’s your chance to enjoy the famed fiddler in an online show with her husband Donnell Leahy.

Most Read