Saanich is seeking resident feedback on a plan to swap land in Haro Woods with the Capital Regional District to make way for an underground sewage overflow tank.
Saanich and the CRD own adjacent parcels of the forest property next to Arbutus Road. The plan involves Saanich giving the CRD 1.5 hectares of Haro Woods for its tank, and in return the municipality would gain 4.3 hectares as permanent parkland.
Part of the process involves rezoning the publicly owned forest from residential to “nature park,” while the CRD portion would have site specific zoning for the tank.
The rezoning application is expected to come before council in April and then a public hearing in May.
The 5,000 cubic metre sewage overflow tank, a $12 million project, is part of the CRD’s regional sewage treatment system and would be funded out of the $783 million allocated for that project.
The tank would store sewage during heavy rain events in the Cadboro Bay and Ten Mile Point areas, when sewage can overflow into stormwater lines, and then flow to outfalls near the Saanich waterfront.
Sewer overflows dump into Cadboro Bay and Finnerty Cove near the Queen Alexandra Centre for Children’s Health.
“It creates an environmental hazard. You’ve got sanitary sewer (liquid) going into the water totally untreated because of overcapacity of pipes,” said Deane Strongitharm of CitySpaces Consulting, which is managing the rezoning application for Saanich.
The holding tank will be buried underground and some tress would be taken down, but the footprint of the tank would be covered with natural vegetation, and the property will be part of the trail system through the woods.
“Saanich is getting a lot more park area and the CRD is fixing an environmental problem of overflow,” Strongitharm said. “The tank is underground and people will still be able to walk through the area.”
A number of sewer lines already run through the property. Upstream sensors would detect sewer overflows, and would automatically open gates that lead to the tank. Sewage would flow out using gravity after a storm into the existing sewer system that leads to Clover Point.
Malcolm Cowley, manager of CRD engineering design services, said the number of sewer overflow events depends on the number of storms. It averages five to eight per year, but has hit up to 15.
Cowley also noted that building a holding tank, which is similar to one already installed in the Marigold area of Saanich. The Haro Woods tank would also delay the need for Saanich to upgrade its sewer pipes to halt stormwater infiltration.
Jonathan Stoppi, with the Cadboro Bay Residents Association, said his group isn’t convinced Haro Woods is the best place for a sewage storage tank.
“The only place they can think to put an attenuation tank is in middle of a beautiful forest? It seems bizarre,” he said. “Because we raised concerns and Saanich is anxious to minimize damage, they’ve arranged to swap the land.
“That the CRD is building on the smallest possible area is the least bad of all options. We are still concerned with the amount of trees being cut to comply with worker safety.”
Stoppi said there are other public chunks of land that could hold a tank with a footprint of 35 by 56 metres – the greenspace at Cadboro Bay Road and Cedar Hill Cross Road, for one.
“That could accommodate a tank and you wouldn’t have to chop down a tree or have an adverse impact on an area,” Stoppi said. “I haven’t heard a coherent reason why not.”
Saanich is accepting feedback until April 2. See saanich.ca/living/community/Haro.