The city has scrapped a plan to build a boat dock this summer at the Whitemud Creek on the North Saskatchewan River. It’s seen as a rare victory where city hall has backed down on a plan after an environmental protest.
“The discourse that we heard here was absolutely civil,” said Charlie Richmond of the Sierra Club after he and two technical experts, a biologist and a hydrologist convinced members of Council’s Urban Planning Committee to delay the project a year. “I think things are changing in terms of public involvement.”
“It was a very polite discussion, and there was regard on the part of administration for what our technical input was.”
They were told that where the creek and river meet is a significant spawning area for fish. Yet the Sierra Club’s solution, to move the docking area just 50 meters upstream was adopted.
“It became really clear how important Whitemud Creek was,” Coun. Ben Henderson said about the consultation process on another Mill Creek ravine project. “We had really closed off all of the other creeks that go into the river with in the city boundary and as a result this was the only place fish actually could spawn and grow up, so that’s information that is also new to us.”
The city had agreed to the original location because of the easier access to the river by users. The new location will have steeper river banks, but nothing that’s out of the question planner Peter Ohm told councillors.
How decisions are made will be reassessed, Ohm said.
“Yeah, retrospectively I think because this was a new venture for us in terms of what we’re putting into the river valley, to have had that discussion about does our format of an E.I.A [environmental impact assessment] meet the test. I think what we heard today is there’s good cause for us to take a look at it.”
That means, instead of six new boating locations on the North Saskatchewan this summer, there will be just five, with the other new dock waiting a year. The city says they can make the switch without impacting the budget.