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Rithet's Bog LogoThe Incredible Shrinking Bog
– What was once a wonderland for local wildlife is petering out

Times Colonist, June 13, 1998 – Malcolm Curtis

Rithet’s Bog is disappearing and no one seems to know why. Usually brimming with waterfowl, the peat bog in the heart of Saanich’s Broadmead development is bone-dry in places that last year were waist-deep in water.

Royal Oak resident Jean McLeod suspects some of the recent development near the bog is diverting water that would normally drain into Rithet’s.

“It used to be gorgeous here,” McLeod pointing to areas where birds used to swim that you can now walk on amidst tall grasses and undergrowth. “You’d see the wood ducks, mallards, the blue herons and occasionally a trumpeter swan.”

For several years she has photographed wildlife around the bog and she has never seen it this dry.

McLeod, a writer and former journalist, phoned Mayor Frank Leonard about the issue.

But she said he had no clear answers, though he mentioned water may not have been released from an upstream dam.

Officials contacted at Saanich municipal hall were unaware of any dam that affects the bog.

“It’s an issue that we’re not sure of,” admitted Saanich parks director Dave De Shane.

The municipality has paid for a three-year study to find out what action needs to be taken to preserve the bog in a natural state. UVic graduate geography student Karen Golinski is expected to finish her study at the end of the year.

The wildlife area, the only major peat bog left in Greater Victoria, was donated to Saanich in 1994 by the Guinness family, Irish brewery owner and developer of Broadmead.

“My own view is there is nothing dramatic happening,” said De Shane. Every summer the bog dries out and though this year seems drier than previous years “I don’t see any direct connection with the development.”

He noted land around the bog used to be farmed until five or six years ago, and water was routinely pumped out every spring for crops such as potatoes.

However, De Shane said the additional diversion of water runoff to keep contaminants such as pesticides, herbicides and oils out of the bog could be a factor. The water is put through separators and then flows into the Colquitz River.

John Olafson, a Broadmead resident and Victoria Natural History Society member, said that poses an even greater concern since the Colquitz is a salmon-bearing stream.

Olafson said neither the municipality nor the developer considered local hydrology, or flow of water when development was allowed around the bog. “None of us gave it that much thought.”

Bog vegetation is already beginning to change with the drop in moisture, pushing out the native plants, he said.

“Obviously some serious work has to be done to consider how to retain the peat bog system.”

Karen Hurley, Saanich’s environmental planner, said she was concerned about the large amount of blacktop paving at a business park on Chatterton Way, the latest development around the bog. Hurley said an environmental review of the project, done before she was hired, did not consider drainage into the bog, but since then Saanich has recognized “hydrology is an issue.”

Residents have raised concerns about the large amount of paved area surrounding Chatterton Way Business Park.

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