June 17, 2019

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Concern over wetland damage could halt transitway construction

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/4/2015 (1515 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Public concern over the potential damage to the Parker wetlands has raised some uncertainty over the start of construction of Stage 2 of the Southwest Transitway corridor.

Manitoba Conservation this week ordered the City of Winnipeg to prepare a report on the potential effects the transitway corridor project will have on the wetlands, a large parcel of undeveloped forest, grass and natural wet meadow west of Pembina Highway and north of the new transitway corridor route.

The order by Manitoba Conservation is being viewed as a victory by advocates of the Parker wetlands.

“That’s a small step forward in the right direction,” Cal Dueck, a member of the Parker Wetlands Conservation Committee, said.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/4/2015 (1515 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Public concern over the potential damage to the Parker wetlands has raised some uncertainty over the start of construction of Stage 2 of the Southwest Transitway corridor.

Manitoba Conservation this week ordered the City of Winnipeg to prepare a report on the potential effects the transitway corridor project will have on the wetlands, a large parcel of undeveloped forest, grass and natural wet meadow west of Pembina Highway and north of the new transitway corridor route.

The order by Manitoba Conservation is being viewed as a victory by advocates of the Parker wetlands.

"That’s a small step forward in the right direction," Cal Dueck, a member of the Parker Wetlands Conservation Committee, said.

The conservation group fears the transitway project will destroy the Parker wetlands and wants the project stopped and another route chosen for the corridor.

City officials received a letter, dated April 20, from Tracey Braun, director of environmental approvals branch, directing the City of Winnipeg to "provide a report, for my approval prior to construction of the (transitway project), on the potential effects of the project on the wetland."

A civic spokeswoman said the city will prepare the report as requested but would not say what impact this will have on the project’s timing.

Officials from Winnipeg Transit were not made available for comment but the spokeswoman said the project remains on schedule.

David Sanders, a community activist, said the city was already required to conduct a field study of the wetlands later this spring as a condition of its environmental license, adding this more comprehensive review could result in the province referring the project for a Clean Environment Commission hearing.

"If that happens, the project certainly will be delayed," Sanders said.

Braun, in her letter this week, instructed Winnipeg to conduct a comprehensive review which will include the preparation of a drainage management plan to ensure the transitway project does not impact the wetland.

The review was prompted by a flurry of appeals to Manitoba Conservation’s decision in December to issue an environmental license for construction of the transitway and the related infrastructure, from Jubilee Avenue to the University of Manitoba.

The transitway corridor is a $447.6-million project for the construction of a dedicated transit corridor and related infrastructure, including bridges, underpasses, a tunnel, roadway connections, transit stations, park and ride facilities, related drainage work, and a new active transportation path. Construction is set to begin in 2016 and be completed late 2019 and the corridor is to go be open in early 2020.

The corridor and the Jubilee underpass widening and reconstruction carry a total price tag of $590 million. City hall and the province are each contributing $225 million and the federal government is providing the remainder.

The transitway corridor will be designed, constructed and maintained for 30 years by a consortium of engineers, designers and contractors, known formally as a public-private partnership (P3). The city has narrowed the shortlist of competing consortiums down to three and is expected to pick the winning team in the fall.

The transitway project has drawn a lot of criticism, mostly for the decision to run the route west of Pembina Highway, through a large parcel of vacant, undeveloped land, known as the Parker lands, before it returns to Pembina Highway and on to the U of M.

Dueck said the conservation group wants city hall to conduct a more comprehensive study of the Parker wetlands but added this order is the first step he hopes will lead to the broader study.

"We believe the wetlands is quite possibly some of the rarest ecosystem on the planet — tallgrass prairie," Dueck, who lives in the area, said. The group wants a full study of all animal life, including birds and insects, in the wetlands.

"The city has been pushing ahead with doing (this project) anyway," Dueck said. "Now at least we’re getting a wetland study."

Dueck said the conservation group also questions the city’s plans to build a giant, deep-water retention pond in the area, fearing city hall intends to drain the nearby wetlands.

 

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Aldo Santin

Aldo Santin
Reporter

Aldo Santin is a veteran newspaper reporter who first carried a pen and notepad in 1978 and joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1986, where he has covered a variety of beats and specialty areas including education, aboriginal issues, urban and downtown development. Santin has been covering city hall since 2013.

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