A proposed highway expansion is being met by protestors who say widening the Malahat would interfere with the surrounding salmon population.
Nearly two dozen protestors lined up on the side of Highway 1 early Tuesday morning in protest of the widening project, including organizer Carl Olsen
“To see the devastation they’re going to be causing to the stream is not acceptable,” Olsen told CHEK News.
In 2018, the provincial government proposed safety improvements to Highway 1 to create safer travel between south and north Vancouver Island. With more than 25,000 daily commuters on that road, the government wants to improve safety conditions to reduce road closures, especially from crashes.
Part of that project would involve widening a 1.7-kilometre corridor between Finlayson Arm Road and the entrance of the Goldstream Campground. The highway would remain as one lane in each direction but would come with wider paved shoulders, a roadside barrier, a median barrier, and improved pedestrian crossings.
However, building it would involve having some of that structure stretch onto the Goldstream River, which is concerning dozens of people over the wildlife.
“They are taking up three-quarters of the spawning beds that are here for the salmon. Not only that, they’re going to take away the habitat of the birds, planning to take down trees, 700 to 800 trees,” said Olsen.
In a statement, B.C.’s Ministry of Transporation and Infrastructure tells CHEK News that it recognizes any highway work “needs to be carried out in a way that will protect the high ecological values of the Goldstream area,” adding, “The protection of the Goldstream salmon is an important aspect of the project environmental reviews and permitting.”
Elder Diane Sam, who’s part of the University of Victoria’s Elders Voice group, says the government should pause the project to allow time for public reconsultation.
“When incidents like this happen, [the government] should pause and re-engage. In this situation, there was no proper consultation,” said Sam.
“These possible improvements, and the development of associated habitat protection and mitigation measures include ongoing consultation with local First Nations on whose traditional territories these proposed improvements reside,” the Ministry said.
There’s no timeline for when the widening project will continue. The status update was in 2020 after public engagement closed.
CHEK News reached out to the Ministry of Transportation and the W̱SÁNEĆ leadership council for comment, but both did not respond in time for publication.
Olsen is planning to host protests every Tuesday for the foreseeable future.
-With files from CHEK’s Tchadas Leo.