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Vancouver park board considers $300M water tunnel under Stanley Park

Compensation deal in works with Metro Vancouver for six years of construction disruption.
The long-planned replacement of a 1930s-era drinking water pipeline that runs under Stanley Park is expected to begin in 2024.

Park board commissioners are expected to vote Monday on a series of agreements that include negotiating a compensation deal with Metro Vancouver to allow construction of a long-planned $300-million tunnel under Stanley Park to supply drinking water to city residents and others in the region.

The new 1.4-kilometre tunnel will replace the existing section of pipe that was built in the 1930s and currently carries water from the Seymour-Capilano Filtration Plant to homes and businesses in Vancouver, Richmond, Delta and the Musqueam and Tsawwassen First Nations.

Replacement of the line has been discussed for several years but was amplified in 2016 after a major leak occurred in Lost Lagoon in 2016. According to park board documents, the existing water main, which runs between Chilco Street and the south shore of Burrard Inlet, is reaching its “serviceable lifespan.”

Construction of the new tunnel, which is expected to begin in 2024 and take until 2029 to complete, will mean years of disruption for park users, some tree removals and increased truck traffic on Pipeline Road.

Some “park amenities” will be removed, along with a biofiltration area and there will be temporary closures or modifications of existing pathways and trails. One lane of Stanley Park Drive in the northern part of the park will be closed for the duration of the project.

Some parking lots will be closed and the animal hospital will be removed.

The route of the existing and proposed drinking water pipelines in Stanley Park. Image courtesy Vancouver Park Board

'Compensation package'

A report that goes before park board commissioners at Monday night’s meeting says staff has been actively negotiating since 2020 with the Greater Vancouver Water District — one of Metro’s four legal entities — for a payment that would fairly compensate the city and park board “for the rights granted and the project’s impact to the park.”

Details of financial negotiations remain confidential.

“Staff have worked with [Metro] to develop a compensation package that reflects the cost of the disruption to the operation, management and public access of Stanley Park and the need to restore the park areas once the work is complete,” the report said.

Park board staff have also requested commissioners approve several land use agreements to allow the project to proceed.

Construction was initially scheduled to begin in 2021 but the project faced delays related to the "permit approvals process and enhanced engagement," according to an email Monday from a Metro Vancouver communications department representative.

The budget for the new tunnel is estimated at more than $300 million and will be paid for via Metro's capital budget, which is funded from drinking water sales to municipalities.

The current water main runs predominantly under Pipeline Road and will remain in service while the new line is built just west of the route. The new line will require digging under Lost Lagoon, with deep tunnelling shafts built at three locations in the park to allow crews to excavate dirt.

The shafts will be approximately 35 to 50 metres underground to ensure installation of the new line occurs in the bedrock and “offers the highest level of seismic resiliency,” according to the report, which noted the pipe will be 2.6 metres in diameter; the current line is 1.8 metres.

12,000 West End residents

Since 2017, Metro has been consulting with the public, including the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations about proceeding with the project.

Direct mailouts to approximately 12,000 West End residents and at least three virtual open houses have been included in the public feedback exercise.

“[Metro Vancouver] recognizes the construction of this major drinking water infrastructure project may impact residents, businesses, and park users,” the park board staff report said.

“As with all construction projects, a number of industry-standard mitigation measures will be implemented by the contractor to manage potential social, environmental and archaeologic impacts.”

Stanley Park is a 405-hectare natural West Coast rainforest that receives an estimated 20,000,000 visitors a year. It is one of the largest urban parks in North America and has more than 2,100 different plant and animal species.

Monday night's meeting begins at 6:30 p.m.

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