Surrey completes major Eco-study

Ecosystem review still has a few flaws, environmentalists say.

'Green Infrastructure Opportunities' identified in Surrey's Ecosystem Management Study.

An ambitious ecosystem review has been deferred by city council for two weeks, giving environmental groups time to ask critical questions about the document.

The Ecosystem Management Study (EMS) will serve as an overarching plan for Surrey’s green spaces and ecological habitats for years to come.

The city’s Environmental Advisory Committee and Surrey Environmental Partners (SEP) have said in the past that the EMS wasn’t coming quickly enough.

Vast tracts of environmentally sensitive areas will be developed before the plan is put into action, they feared.

Even though Surrey was ready to endorse the plan on Monday, it wouldn’t be put into force until an Official Community Plan is adopted by council later this year.

Environmental groups are happy to have a bit more time, saying they’re not pleased with some parts of the EMS.

“We would have hoped that implementation would be immediate,” Deb Jack, president of the Surrey Environmental Partners wrote to mayor and council. “So it seems that a short delay is not unreasonable.”

Because of lack of time on Monday, council deferred the adoption of the plan for two weeks, which Jack calls a “fortuitous happening,” adding now she can ask some important questions about the document.

Jack thinks that the classifications of sensitive areas don’t adequately meet the true definition of Surrey’s green spaces.

Rosemary Zelinka, with the Surrey Association of Sustainable Communities (SASC) also has several concerns with the document as presented.

She expressed concern to council several months ago when the first draft was presented, and asked for a meeting with staff or to at least have some of the concerns in the letter addressed.

“This was not done, in fact it is not even mentioned in the report that we submitted this letter, although letters from Surrey Environmental Partners and from the David Suzuki Foundation are mentioned (although it is not clear whether they supported or opposed the recommendations),” Zelinka wrote in a letter to council. “As far as we can see, none of the many concerns we identified in our July letter have been addressed.  In fact, things are now worse, because there was a detailed chart of policy tools in the draft report that would be used to protect hubs, sites, and corridors, and this is now missing.”

Coun. Bob Bose said he also has problems with it.

“My  primary concern is it places the whole (environmental) question on the same footing as with all the other concerns, that is social and economic,” Bose said. “The essential root is, which trumps what? As far as I’m concerned, development trumps the environment every time.”

On the positive side, he sees the document as better mapping of Surrey’s environmental values than has existed in the past.

“It goes beyond simply watercourses,” Bose said.

Manager of Community Planning Don Luymes said the EMS is just the first phase in environmental planning.

It will serve as a guiding document for the Tree Protection Bylaw, the Official Community Plan, Neighbourhood Concept Plans and the yet-to-be developed Biodiversity Conservation Strategy.

The EMS will be back before council on the afternoon of April 18.