Farmer Ted Westlin standing next to the McCallum Ditch, which runs next to his property. (Grace Kennedy/The Observer)

Kent to clean 14km of waterways this summer

The drainage maintenance requires a habitat compensation project to be finished this year

The District of Kent has approved over 14 kilometres of drainage work for this year, in an attempt to clear overgrown waterways and improve drainage in the community.

In council Monday (May 13), council voted to do maintenance on 12 different channels in the district — the most significant of these being three kilometres of the McCallum Ditch from north of Else Road to McCallum Road, 2.5 kilometres of the Westlin Ditch, east of Cameron Road, 2.4 kilometres of the Hogg Slough (although this will be grass mowing only) and two kilometres of Kilby Ditch.

The drainage maintenance will remove grass and sediment from the channels, although some channels will see grass mowing only.

This maintenance will also see two new culverts installed in the McPherson Ditch and one in the Hogg Slough at Hunt Road.

Historically, drainage work has been a controversial topic in the District of Kent, with landowners and biologists at loggerheads about how best to manage the district’s waterways, which are home to several endangered species including the Oregon Spotted Frog and the Salish Sucker.

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Because of the presence of the provincially red-listed frog and the endangered fish, the district has to hire a third-party environmental consultant to monitor the drainage work. Council approved re-hiring AquaTerra Environmental Ltd., which has done work in the district for the last six years, for $36,700.

Currently, the district is two years into a five-year WSA Change Approval, which allows the district to make complex changes in the lower McCallum and Westlin ditches.

Having this change approval allows the district to maintain the channels each year without submitting a new proposal to the province. However, it also comes with conditions, including a “compensation project” to offset habitat damage caused by drainage maintenance.

According to a staff report, the district had been working on a compensation project on a tributary of the Mountain Slough, but that was abandoned “in consultation with the landowner … due to Ministry requirements.”

Staff looked at the possibility of enhancing part of the Mountain Institution property off Sutherland Road, but the province said there would be too many hurdles with federal permitting requirements.

The habitat project needs to be finished this year, and Scott Barrett, regional director of resource management for the province, said the district could either finish the Mountain Slough project, or complete a previously designed habitat project in the lower McCallum Ditch.

According to the staff report, the district “advised Mr. Barrett that they didn’t feel that compensation for drainage maintenance was fair, but that the district would work on fulfilling the obligation.”

Staff are currently working on getting the compensation project approved by both the province and the affected landowners.

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