` Columbia Journal - Watershed - No Way
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Watershed Highway Proposal Raises Ire



Proposals for new highway routes to Whistler through Greater Vancouver's watersheds would reverse a long-standing policy of protecting the source of drinking water for the region's 2.5 million people, say local ecologists and regional employees.

Olympic bid concerns about access on the Squamish Highway are driving schemes that range from a $1.3 billion four-laning of the existing highway, to punching new rail lines and roads through the Capilano and Seymour valley watersheds. The latter idea has public interest groups worried about the risk to water quality and public health.

The Society Promoting Environmental Conservation, the Greater Vancouver Regional District Employees Union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees and numerous ecological and consumer organizations are on record opposing any freeway construction in lower mainland watersheds.

But Squamish Mayor Corinne Lonsdale says she supports a highway through the watersheds in order to save 20 minutes for Olympic bound drivers. Last October, GVRD water committee chairperson Marvin Hunt said opening the now-protected watersheds is an option following construction of a new $450 million water filtration system which is expected to be in place by 2007.

"To assume that we can go in and disturb the natural watersheds and then hope filtration will guarantee safe water, is both foolish and dangerous," said SPEC President David Cadman. "Despite all the assurances of modern technology, hundreds of people died in Milwaukee in the late 1990s when their filtration system failed."

Vancouver's first water commissioner, Ernest A. Cleveland, implemented the closed watershed policy in 1926. He reasoned that preventing contamination is the most efficient form of water protection




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