Louise Jones, the chairperson of the advocacy group, told Global News it’s because the Swale Watchers don’t agree with the decisions being made and they don’t feel their concerns were being addressed.
“We couldn’t understand why (the Ministry) just kept proceeding without really examining if this is the best economic and environmental answer,” she said.
Jones formally told the City of Saskatoon and the provincial government in a letter last week.
“Although we continue to believe that we have much to contribute to this discussion,” it says, “it has become clear that our concerns are being ignored within this process.”
Jones said she repeatedly asked the Ministry, through the Swale Watchers’ participation in the environmental and heritage technical working group, to reevaluate the route of the Freeway project and to evaluate it with more recent information and stricter guidelines.
She added the inability to present their own opinions, a condition of membership in the group, also inspired the decision to leave.
She was afraid the Watcher’s silence would be mistaken for support.
Current plans for the 55 kilometres of perimeter highway puts it right through the Northeastern Swale, a stretch of wetlands and natural prairie on the edge of the city.
The City of Saskatoon website highlights the area as “as a unique environment, having ecological, hydrological and hydrogeological characteristics” that is home to hundreds of species of plants and animals.
Jones said the project should be redirected to protect the “amazingly healthy” ecosystem.
In a statement the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure said the route “has already been determined based on previous studies.”
“The location of the freeway is optimized to achieve maximum benefits for all road users at the lowest cost. If the freeway is moved further north, cross-city travel and rural usage declines, while the cost increases.”
It also said the Ministry was disappointed by the departure of the Swale Watchers from the working group and that it will continue to seek their input.
Jones told Global News feedback from the Swale Watchers will now be much louder.
“This way we’re able to come out and say ‘here’s our concerns’ instead of just… expressing them in a meeting.”