Phillip Milligan

Truck park planned near Little Campbell River

Environmental watchdog says the threat of spills and devastation to salmon habitat looms under Surrey councillor’s proposal.

A plan to build a truck parking lot beside a fish-rich river has raised the ire of an environmental group dedicated to watching over the waterway.

Surrey is planning to pave the way for industrial development in the South Campbell Heights area as part of a Local Area Plan (LAP) endorsed by council on Monday. The green space is 245 hectares (600 acres) – just over half the size of Vancouver’s Stanley Park.

It is home to a second-growth forest about 100 years old, an abundance of wildlife, and the Little Campbell River, which is a spawning area for spring, coho and chum salmon.

The plans are located just south of Campbell Heights Park, which also abuts the Little Campbell River, a project the David Suzuki Foundation called one of the worst examples in the province of salmon habitat destruction from development.

On Monday, when the preparation of an LAP for the area south of 16 Avenue near 192 Street was endorsed by council, Coun. Tom Gill surprised many when he asked that an old gravel pit be turned into a truck parking facility.

He wants that done prior to the completion of the LAP.

It’s unusual to push development ahead of local plans for the area, but Gill told The Leader Tuesday this is a special circumstance.

“Need,” Gill said when asked about the hurry. “There is a need for truck parking throughout the city.”

There are currently 1,300 big rigs parking illegally in Surrey, which impact residential areas and farmlands, he noted.

The truck park would allow truckers to wash their rigs, change oil and tires, and would include washroom facilities.

Gill said he would insist on the highest environmental standards so there would be no impact on the Little Campbell River.

But Phillip Milligan, president of the Little Campbell Watershed Society, is outraged at the plan.

“We have a lot of concerns about that,” Milligan said. “How do they keep the effluent, all the chemicals, all the brake fluids, the antifreeze – how to they keep all of the oils out of the river?”

He said that section of the Little Campbell River is an important salmon spawning area, home to spring, coho and chum salmon, as well as steelhead and cutthroat trout.

“The Little Campbell, believe it or not, is one of the most productive steelhead rivers in the Lower Mainland,” Milligan said.

Because it’s a relatively small river, any pollutants entering the water could be devastating for the fish population.

A truck parking facility on that site could be catastrophic, he said.

“That’s the last thing that you want right beside the river,” Milligan said, adding he’s bothered by the speed at which Gill is advancing the idea.

“I don’t know why Gill is pushing this right now,” Milligan said Wednesday. “We have this LAP program that everything has to go in order. Why would one council member be pushing to put forward a development like this?”

Surrey has struggled with a truck parking shortage for years. Gill has taken up the cause, pushing for more opportunities for truck drivers to legally park closer to home.

He insists there will be catch basins for oil and other measures to help prevent a spill in the Little Campbell River.

Staff will review the plan before it comes back to council.

Eventually the development plan would have to undergo a public hearing, where residents would have their say on it.