Cheryl Wiens: Scrap the plan for South Campbell Heights

An environmentalist says that recent atmospheric rivers hitting B.C. should wake up politicians to the risk of developing so much industrial space next to a floodplain

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      By Cheryl Wiens

      A few weeks ago, I posted about Metro Vancouver’s shameful decision to approve the City of Surrey’s proposed development plan for the South Campbell Heights area. Briefly, the plan would result in most of South Campbell Heights being rezoned from rural to light industrial, despite the archaeologically and environmentally sensitive nature of the area.

      After that decision, hope seemed lost for South Campbell Heights and for the Little Campbell River that runs through it. But then, a parade of atmospheric rivers hit. The impact of their procession has been devastating here in the Lower Mainland and across B.C.

      In my opinion, recent events should have set off alarm bells in the heads of decision makers regarding the inherent dangers of plans like the one to pave over South Campbell Heights.

      On November 15, after the first in a series of atmospheric rivers had hit, the Little Campbell River broke its banks and caused localized flooding in a number of areas, including the Semiahmoo Fish and Game Club, which flooded in January of 2020 as well.

      This video shows severe flooding at the Little Campbell River hatchery in 2020.

      It turns out the South Campbell Heights area is right next to a floodplain. Who knew, right? Well, the City of Surrey knew.

      Given this knowledge, the City of Surrey’s plan to cut down stands of 100-year-old trees and pave significant portions of nearby land is knowingly putting people’s lives and livelihoods in danger. Reducing drainage in the area will lead to increased runoff and flood risk during future atmospheric river events. This at a time when the flood risk is already increasing due to climate change.

      As we near what appears to be the eleventh hour for South Campbell Heights and the Little Campbell River, some recent mainstream media coverage on the issue has been a welcome ray of hope.

      Will the City of Surrey and Metro Vancouver board members finally take notice of what environmentalists, nearby residents, the Semiahmoo First Nation, professional experts—and now, Mother Nature—are all saying?

      Perhaps with some sustained public pressure leading up to the final decision in January, we can still turn the tide for South Campbell Heights and the Little Campbell River.

      Please join me in calling on the City of Surrey to #ScrapThePlan.

      Metro Vancouver's board approved Surrey's application to dedicate much of South Campbell Heights (purple areas) for industrial uses, pending consultation with local First Nations.