Welcome to Garden City conservation

March 18, 2017

Richmond, British Columbia, Canada has long been known as the Garden City. This blog aims to provide informed in-depth opinion on a range of conservation issues of interest to the Garden City community, which is centred in Richmond but extends around B.C. and the globe.

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Background for newcomers

It began when the citizens had a vision for the Garden City Lands, a 136-acre field in the city centre that had always been green through historical good fortune. By acting together and with BC’s Agricultural Land Commission process, they saved it—from dense multi-billion-dollar development—for the higher value of its Agricultural Land Reserve uses for community wellness. That is one of Richmond’s priceless legacies from the past for the present and the future 20, 50 and 100 years or more from now.

Turn down the pH in here!The lands have become a city park, with a major park enhancement process under way, and the citizens aim to help steward the lands in the ALR for agricultural, ecological and open-land park uses for community wellness. That would include restoration of the sphagnum bog on much of the lands. Sphagnum moss, illustrated at right, is the keystone genus (group of species) that spent millennia leading the forming of the lands.

We began as the Garden City Lands Coalition and evolved into the Garden City Conservation Society, active in various conservation issues in Richmond and beyond, with many “Friends of Garden City.” 


Coming and Recent Events

Farmland house regulations: The Let’s Talk Richmond survey closed on March 12, 2017. Staff will next take recommendations to council. From a conservation standpoint, curtailing the use of ALR farmland for megahome estates is likely to help conserve farmland, primarily for agriculture and secondarily for ecological conservation.

Friday, October 28, 2016 was the deadline for responses to the Review Panel for the federal environmental assessment of the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 project.  In the final days, there was massive input, mostly explaining concerns, bringing the total to 887 responses . To further respond to federal politicians, etc., it’s efficient to use Real Terminal 2 Hearings.

Transmission project harms the estuary

March 18, 2017

Last fall, I addressed the Massey transmission line issue on this blog. Electric power lines, secure in the tunnel in working condition, were to be junked. New lines would be suspended over the Fraser from towers 120 metres tall.

Beyond the trees, the rendering shows a grey 75-metre tower and red 120-metre tower for electric-power transmission lines to replace the ones in the George Massey Tunnel.

The effect would be massive clutter, with no evident benefits for Richmond. So Richmond council firmly objected.

But the BC government simply priced the power-line project at $76 million and prodded BC Hydro to go full speed ahead with it. Hydro did as told, even though the consultation guide had said it could start after bridge construction began, if need be.

That same BC government likes to describe how much Richmond has been consulted on this issue and related ones, but consultation without heeding is nothing.

So why the hurry? The Sun’s Vaughn Palmer thinks it’s because “Christy Clark promised after the last election that construction would be underway before the next one.”

It’s that and more. Near-ready towers before Election Day could give voters the impression it’s too late for a new government to revisit the Massey options.

For sure, speeded-up tower work makes it harder to build another tunnel tube beside the existing one, since the tower foundations would block the new-tube route on one side.

On the bright side, it may prompt voters thinking about the Massey project to realize that it’s a tunnel removal project. The key word is “removal.” The intent is to remove what the project has called “an impediment” to bigger ships going upriver and back.

Transporting LNG, they’d put residents of Richmond and Delta at risk with substandard LNG safety. And they’d transport Wyoming thermal coal, via Fraser Surrey Docks (FSD), that US ports refuse to handle.

FSD proposals require that the deep-sea ship channel be dredged to a depth of at least 13.5 metres. That’s at least two extra metres, which is a lot. Channel widening, with still more dredging, would be needed too.

The ecological effects of deep-dredging the 34-kilometre channel each year would be devastating, especially since several other ecologically risky projects are planned or in progress. Only the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 project is getting a federal review.

In contrast, the Fraser River Estuary Management Program (FREMP) harmonized the estuary’s ecology, economic development and quality of life for twenty years, and it was bolstered by federal willingness to do environmental reviews.

Then, in 2013, the Harper government handed it over to Port Metro Vancouver, an agent of industrializing—and deadening—the Fraser. That typifies the problem.

The Trudeau government promised to fix the problem. We’ll see.

For now, moving a transmission line from the tunnel to towers may seem like a local detail, but keeping it in the tunnel would have welcome ripple effects for the estuary. And every battle matters in the Fraser’s fight for life.

How the Massey Project comparison of options was rigged

March 13, 2017

In the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project, the supposed comparison of five scenarios (supposed options) was used to eliminate almost all views other than the anointed one, Scenario 2, “Replace Existing Tunnel with New Bridge.” That was done in several overlapping ways, and this column shows how just one of them discredits the process for anyone who can take the time to follow what happened.

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When the project provided five scenarios, they were presumably ways to proceed that were worth considering. The scenario that appeared to receive the most public support was the obvious one. (In the map illustration below, the concept includes an added “Green Tube,” so-named because it is an environmentally friendly method.)

It had been the expected way to expand the tunnel ever since 1955, when the engineering consultants recommended it in the Fraser River Highway Crossing at Deas Island report. That obvious method was to add a tunnel tube in the tunnel corridor to expand the tunnel by at least two lanes. (See page 13 in this excerpt from the 1955 Crippen Wright Engineering Ltd. report.)

The project included that long-intended step in Scenario 4, “Maintain Existing Tunnel and Build New Crossing along Highway 99 Corridor” (Phase 2 Discussion Guide, p. 2.)

The new tube would apparently comprise two transit/HOV lanes and a multi-use path, in keeping with the Garden City Conservation Society’s proposal based on practical and conservation values.

However, the project then changed the scenario when evaluating and comparing it. In the 2014 MMK report (page 3), we see this:

Retroactively, the scenario had been changed to require the same capacity—ten lanes, etc.—as the project’s preferred one, the bridge. As you can see when you look back and forth, the new wording was thoroughly inconsistent with the scenario stated in the Phase 2 Guide.

A crucial objection to the proposed bridge expressed by Metro Vancouver and many others was that lower capacity would be better, e.g., from standpoints of regional growth and the environment. However, the change that got slipped into the MMK docuement, which got applied to all the scenarios, had the effect of eliminating such ideas from consideration. In one fell swoop, much—perhaps most—of the consultation input to the project was annihilated.

Furthermore, the MMK report made almost no other use of the project’s supposed consultation. There’s a segment that evaluates the scenarios on the basis of  community and regional planning (pp. 25–27), but the bridge option somehow comes out looking good despite the strong opposition of Richmond and Metro Vancouver. (Note: The only other consultation included is with first responders, p. 25.)

This problem appeared again in the project’s application to the BC Environmental Assessment Office which based the related part on “Evaluation of Crossing Scenarios (MMK 2014).” This means that, once again, the project made the excessive size of the bridge a requirement for the other options. That practically precluded the EAO from responding to the environmental harm of the excesses.

The project made the EAO assessment a farce, a huge waste of the taxpayers’ money. This example of supposedly comparing scenarios to choose the best one shows that the project also wasted an incredible amount of good-faith input from Metro Vancouver, local and First Nations governments, and many groups and individuals.

Announcing “Let the Fraser Live!”

March 9, 2017

Fraser Voices is sharing
Let the Fraser Live! 

It is a revealing look at government-allowed incursions on the Fraser River Estuary that are simply killing it. It ends with some solutions.

I have introduced it with “Gambling with Jokers for the Estuary” (below). You can read that or go straight to Let the Fraser Live!

It is an exposé with a positive intent, as expressed in the subtitle: “A plea to governments destroying the Lower Fraser river and Estuary.”

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Gambling with Jokers for the Estuary

Fraser River Estuary

The struggle over the ecological Life or Death of the Fraser Estuary is like a Wild West card game with a treasure on the line. It’s fitting that the form of a just-released exposé, Let the Fraser Live! resembles a deck of cards.

There are 54 cards, not the common 52, because there are Jokers to deal with. That makes the risks and opportunities even wilder.

Of course, it’s our treasure that governments and a power-wielding crown corporation could gamble away. We mild citizens don’t usually go in for gambling, but we’re most likely to lose the treasure if we sit in the shadows and don’t take part.

Fortunately, we get a much better chance to be on the winning side if we quickly study the cardsTo start, click on the word cards at any time. (And maybe save the “cards” PDF to your computer while you’re at it.)

LNG TankerTip: Reading the dozen questions that follow is an option that will likely help you to focus on the cards, if you so choose.

  1. How wide is the swath of Delta and Richmond that might be hit by the rare but explosive effects of an LNG tanker accident in the Fraser ship channel?
  1. OrcaWhat marine life is affected by tankers passing through the Fraser Estuary and Salish Sea?
  1. Why should there have been an environmental assessment about the project to ship up to eight million tonnes a year of U.S. thermal coal through that route?
  1. fox in henhouseWhy are approval processes for risky projects in the Fraser Estuary being likened to putting the fox in charge of the henhouse?
  1. Why do governments and vested interests want to destruct the George Massey Tunnel, which should be good for another 50 years or more?
  1. What did Albert Einstein say that’s worth heeding in this context?einstein
  1. Should we feel sorry for Marc Garneau, who feels powerlessness when confronted by Port Metro Vancouver, which is within his responsibilities as Minister of Transport?
  1. Does Port Metro Vancouver have too much power?
  1. healthy-foodHow does Port CEO Robin Silvester valuing of food security compare with yours?
  1. In view of the Deltaport record in meeting past business projections, is it worth dumping an island of fill into the estuary to double the container capacity?
  1. What else could the Trudeau Government do to deliver on its promise to restore and improve environmental legislation?
  1. Justin Trudeau balancing a baby on one hand. Vancouver Sun photo.What’s a simple way for citizens to have a voice in this?

With you taking part, is there Life or Death for the Fraser Estuary in the cards?

It’s a gamble that should never be happening, but at least you’re making the odds better.

Non-clueless views on the Vanity Bridge

February 22, 2017

Looking to catch a few Massey Issue views, I simply googled Massey bridge. I caught a News 1130 story, “Critic pushes to toll Massey Tunnel, instead of building new span.” Illuminating!

Nathan Pachal, Councillor, City of LangleyTo critic Nathan Pachal’s tolling idea, I’d add the wrinkle of a congestion-scaled toll on trucks—scaling from high tolls at hours when traffic in a direction is jammed to low or nil at light-traffic times. If the Roberts Bank port facilities get opened for trucks to load and unload 24/7, that may be the only toll that’s needed.

Nathan Pachal, who writes the South Fraser blog, is a Councillor of the City of Langley.

I in turn got hooked via News 1130’s Related Stories, taking this bait, “Expert says Massey replacement will cause more problems than it will solve.” Enlightening!

Simon Fraser University Professor Anthony Perl

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Expert Anthony Perl foresees the effect if the bridge gets built:

“It’s going to create more challenges for our region in trying to build the sustainable, compact growth area that people will actually benefit from. That’s a lot harder to fix once we’ve already gone down that path.”

That supports the approach to growth of Metro Vancouver’s planners and mayors. It also agrees with the planners and council of Richmond, which has a lot at stake.

Anthony Perl, PhD, is Professor of Urban Studies and Political Science at SFU.

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Susan Jones, Boundary Bay Conservation CommitteeUpdate, Feb. 22, 2017:
Susan Jones of the Boundary Bay Conservation Committee is a thorough researcher of the Massey issue. Have a look at her new analyis: “The over-sized, over-priced bridge does NOT have public support.”

The best indicator of public opinion is the submissions to the BC Environmental Assessment review. Almost all the 446 written submissions showed either support or opposition for the bridge plan. While 96% were opposed, only 4% supported the plan.

Metro Vancouver mayors were opposed too— 21 out of 22.

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Mike HarcourtWhen Mike Harcourt shared his views in the Vancouver Sun and Delta Optimist, his conclusion was evident from the title “Former premier says bridge is a bad idea.” He elaborated by comparing the kinds of approaches Metro Vancouver has proposed with the one being imposed. He wrote:

These ad hoc, unilateral, provincially imposed transportation projects such as the bridge proposed to replace the tunnel are a bad way to address these challenges, a bad way to govern.

Yet, in “Bridge is best option,” transport minister Todd Stone responded:

This is simply not borne out . . . by the opinions of the thousands of consultation participants that took the time to share their views over a period of more than four years.

Any smidgeon of truth to that claim? See the facts from Susan Jones.

 

Smoking gun in the case of the vanishing tunnel

February 20, 2017

smoking gun with the elephant in the roomThis adds to the evidence of the elephant in the tunnel removal room (article below this one).

The George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project’s guide for “Phase 1: Understanding the Need” adds a smoking gun to the elephant evidence.

It calls the tunnel, “an impediment to expanded trade at Fraser Surrey Docks and points east along the Fraser River.”

It adds, “This is because many of the newer ocean-going vessels are too large to pass over the tunnel.” (See page 11, which is PDF page 12.)

After lauding Port Metro Vancouver at length, the guide concludes, “A new crossing provides the opportunity to open the way to new trade expansion locations.”

In short, the project guide touts tunnel removal to enable a deeper channel for larger ships. That’s basically what BC transportation minister Todd Stone keeps denying.

If the tunnel-removal intent can’t stand up to analysis, it should be changed, not obfuscated and forced through the process under post-truth pretences.

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To get a firm grasp of the set of evidence of intentions to deep-dredge the Fraser navigation channel (tunnel removing permitting), read this article too.

Tunnel removal to deep-dredge the Fraser

February 10, 2017

Dredge ElephantMany citizens have addressed BC transport minister Todd Stone’s double-speak about the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project, but it’s still crucial to focus on the elephant in the room, the dredging aspect.

Stone recently wrote, “The province will not dredge the river as part of the project.” Of course not! First, dredging is a federal, not provincial, responsibility that is carried out by the Port of Vancouver (PoV). Second, dredging a 34 km navigation channel would obviously not be part of a tunnel-bridge project. (It would, however, be enabled by the tunnel-bridge project.)

salish-seaBeyond the doublespeak, the dredging is a pivotal factor in the threatened future of the Fraser Estuary, as well as the Fraser River and Salish Sea. And facts matter.

Dredging the navigation channel deeper than the current 11.5 metres—for safe clearance above the tunnel—has long been proposed. The proposals go back to at least 2006, in the Pacific Gateway Strategy Action Plan(See page 20, which is PDF page 32.)

Along with that, PoV has been sure since September 2012 that deeper dredging would entail removing the tunnel. (Adding depth by dredging the protective layer of sand above the rock ballast and tunnel was known to be unsafe by then. See Deep Dredge Appendix 1.)

In April 2013, a letter from the PoV CEO to the Massey Project’s executive director urged “Replacing the tunnel with a new crossing that allows larger vessels to access industrial sites along the river.” (See Deep Dredge Appendix 2.)

Jeff Scott of Fraser Surrey DocksFraser Surrey Docks (FSD) operates the main Fraser cargo terminal, and FSD CEO Jeff Scott is clear: “We’ve proposed a five-year project, which would take us to 13.5 metres in steps over that period” (Business in Surrey, June & July 2013—see Deep Dredge Appendix 3).

Robin Silvester, Vancouver Fraser Port Authority CEOThe October 2013 PoV President’s Report by CEO Robin Silvester (Deep Dredge Appendix 5)) says 13.5 m would enable the fleets for dry or liquid bulk (dilbit, LNG, US thermal coal, etc.) “to transit the river fully laden.” That would include Panamax vessels of up to about 80,000 deadweight tonnes (DWT) and some Aframax vessels, even larger.

Since the other rationales for a bridge are weak, tunnel removal is the likely reason it was chosen.

We desperately need an independent review of the costs and benefits of all aspects of the proposed tunnel removal, including triggered proposals like the deep dredging. That includes ongoing economic cost and the deadening ecological cost of battering the estuary.

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Additional appendixes with supplementary information:

Deep Dredge Appendix 4, from a research report by Douglas Massey, includes a key insight in the bottom paragraph. It refers to a meeting of Feb. 2,2012 to plan a strategy for removal of the George Massey Tunnel. The participants (BC government Port Metro Vancouver, Fraser Surrey Docks, etc.) are listed in the second paragraph. The final paragraph includes Port Metro Vancouver’s response about the channel depth needed for the larger ships they envision going past the tunnel location: “the depth should be 15.5 m over 50 years and 18.5 over a 100 year period.”

Deep Dredge Appendix 6 is from the Gateway Transportation Collaboration Forum 2015 report. The described “Fraser River Deepening Project” implicitly requires removal of the tunnel. Port Metro Vancouver would have some way to say the project to dredge the channel isn’t a plan to dredge the channel, but any reasonable person can see clear intent to dredge the channel (after tunnel removal).

Deep Dredge Appendix 7 is a letter from the Port of Vancouver (a.k.a. Port Metro Vancouver” and “Vancouver Fraser Port Authority”) to the BC Environmental Assessment Office, which had asked about Fraser River dredging related to environmental assessment of the “proposed George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project.” In the three-page PoV letter, the relevant thirteen words are on the second page, with my yellow highlighting added. PoV wrote: “The port authority currently has no plans to create a deeper navigation channel.” They can play semantic games with “currently” and “plans,” but contrasting truth is that PoV certainly had the intent to do it. The reality is that the answer was very misleading

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Update, Feb. 16, 2017: Here is the full George Massey Tunnel Replacement project application to the BC Environmental Assessment Office. That’s 4418 pages of PDF! I find it simplest to refer to the PDF page numbers. Roughly 27 times, the application claims that “the Ministry is unaware of any plans by others to dredge the river deeper.” Unless the Ministry wears a blindfold and ear plugs, that must be false, as shown in this article (including the appendixes). 

Since the application shows that roughly a dozen Indigenous groups had expressed concerns about related dredging, the invalid consultation includes all of those groups (along with many other parties). For details, search for “dredging” from around PDF page 2248 on in the application.

Update, Feb, 20, 2017: See also “Smoking gun in the case of the vanishing tunnel,” the article above this one.

Jaggs’ tree hugs beget kudos + encores

January 9, 2017

Gordon Jaggs. Tree Preservation Coordnator, Richmond, BCAre you engaged? Now’s the chance.

The engaging Gordon Jaggs is midway through his six-event Tree Protection tour. The ratings are solid.

Jaggs, who heads Richmond’s trio of Tree Protection Bylaw staff, uses slides of local trees and protective measures to illustrate his stories, with discussion welcome. That’s the first hour.

The second hour is “Q & A.” It includes questions about park and street trees—beyond the tree bylaw, which applies to private property. One can just listen, but most people have good questions.

The answers are also good, especially since Jaggs brings some informed colleagues with him, mainly parks staff, and they say what they think. Also, the public chime in. Sometimes Jaggs arranges to follow up.

People arrive and leave at any time, and no one minds. Some of the public even stay around to chat at the end, with staff obliging.

I gather that the discussion has varied quite a bit from one event to another. There’s so much to talk about in a get-together of residents and staff who mostly love trees.

There’s an event a month, always on a weekday evening at 6:00 p.m. at a community centre. So far it’s been Thompson, West Richmond and South Arm.

It’s Steveston’s turn next Wednesday, January 18, 2017. The final events are on Thursdays: Cambie on February 23 and Hamilton on March 23.

I’m happy about the events, but I’m not saying all’s well with Richmond tree protection. The stated purpose of the bylaw is to “protect Richmond’s urban forest,” and informed citizens don’t excuse the gap between that and reality.

At the South Arm event, several were outraged about the urban forest on the north side of Alderbridge (the “Walmart block”) that’s been wiped out. A staff member implied the better trees there were too scattered. I joined in to mention tree-moving equipment that could have resolved that.

Jaggs mused about encouraging the developers who save all the trees they can. I suggested ways to honour them, but he was hesitant. I suppose there’s not much support from higher-ups, since less-enlightened developers are dominant in Richmond.

After the West Richmond event, conservationist Michael Wolfe told “Save Richmond Trees” on Facebook that “Staff misuse the term ‘dying’ when claiming trees are suitable for removal” and “they ignore the ecosystem values of woody debris (e.g., for nesting habitat).”

More optimistically, he added, “Staff encouraged the crowd to speak at public hearings so Council can be made aware of public concern for trees.” If the crowd heeded, that’s a worthwhile outcome.

Sharon MacGougan, President, Garden City Conservation Society, Richmond, BC

If you take part in one of the events, there’s a good chance you’ll find the experience engaging—and worthwhile.

After the Thompson event, Sharon MacGougan, president of the Garden City Conservation Society, said, “This meeting style is a friendly way to communicate” and “Gordon Jaggs is good at what he does.”

To learn more, google “Richmond Tree Protection Bylaw.

Extending the 12th Day of Christmas year round

January 6, 2017

My family’s homemade Christmas card shares the Nativity spirit, and lots of people say nice things about it as an actual card and also a Richmond News column. Now I’m finally sharing it here for the Twelfth Day of Christmas, also called the Epiphany. It celebrates the journey of the Magi—wise men from the East—to Bethlehem and the infant Jesus, adding greatly to the broad significance of the Nativity.

Have a look at the illustration and column below. They apply year round.

Christmas 2016 Nativity illustration by Suzanna Wright, Vancouver, BC

Welcome to my family’s homemade Christmas card. It features the “Peace on Earth” visual (above) by my daughter Suzanna. This column also appears in the card.

Suzanna has used cartoon style to simply say a lot. I’ll share with you what I see in her art.

For a start, I see diverse people focused on a central treasure—in harmony with each other, animals and nature. They’re even okay with the closeness of at least fifteen humans and the pig, cat, sheep, rabbit and dog.

They’re still, but they pick up energy from the treasure and send off energy with their vibrancy and focus. The treasure is “Peace on Earth,” the higher value imbuing all, enabling a better community and world.

Since the card is for Christmas, I also see the visual as the Nativity of Jesus. I bet there’s a newborn child nestled in the manger, charming everyone as they gaze on him.

The scene includes the baby’s young mom, Mary, along with her fiancé, Joseph. He knows the baby is not his offspring, but he’s kept his faith in a divine power and Mary, who would’ve been shamed or worse if he hadn’t. Joseph and Mary are outwardly ordinary, blending in.

I’m aware that a Roman emperor’s decree has forced them to travel far from their town to Bethlehem, where they have little or no shelter. It occurs to me they’ll later become refugees, fleeing to Egypt to save their child from a murderous local king.

But in Suzanna’s visual they have friendly company, including humble shepherds who were watching over their flocks when peaceful voices led them to the manger. Also, other people may have followed the shepherds back to the manger after they spread the news.

That fits with the Nativity account by Luke of Antioch (near Aleppo), a physician. He became the historian of the early Christians, with an engaging style. I think he wanted readers to identify with the shepherds, who take up half his Nativity story, as well as with the family.

People do that so much that Nativity characters often look Ugandan in Christmas cards from Uganda, Japanese in cards from Japan, and so on. In that vein, Suzanna’s visual is fitting for a community from many lands—when we identify as harmoniously diverse.

Two final notes:

First, Jesus spoke well of shepherds and even identified as “the good shepherd” in his public life thirty years later, in keeping with the Nativity scene. He also reached out to people who’d been shamed. Two millennia later, the values still inspire.

Second, last December our new neighbours from China had little English, so we added a message in Chinese on our 2015 homemade card and dropped it off on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day, our doorbell rang, and their beaming family presented a Yule-log Christmas cake.

Our Christmas dinner would’ve lacked a cake, so the kindness was perfect.

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In case you wish to use the card non-commercially for its intended purpose, you can download it as a PDF. Print it on two sides of a sheet and fold it to half the width and then half the length.

Prince Rupert or Roberts Bank Terminal 2?

November 21, 2016

propose-roberts-bank-terminal-2

We are the people of the Fraser Estuary, lucky to live on its islands. The estuary, where river meets sea, is one of the most productive ecosystems on the planet. But my “Roberts Bank versus Terminal 2” article had to sound an alarm.

After that time, many of us took action by responding to the review panel for Roberts Bank Terminal 2. A federal crown corporation, Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, is behind that project, which would pile 15 million cubic metres of fill into the estuary for a container-shipping site.

In the final few days of public input, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency received 283 comments to the panel from groups and individuals. Their advice ranged from a few words to 100+ pages.

Most of the contributions, including a dozen from First Nations, put the needs and gifts of nature ahead of Port Authority wants. Still, one may ask, how else can we export Canada’s resources to Asia and import more foreign products?

A Richmond resident phrased the answer as a brief request: “Please use the Port of Prince Rupert instead.” That’s best for Prince Rupert, Richmond, our region, our province and our country.

But that solution doesn’t cater to the Port Authority. After all, its main revenue is rent from our federal property under its control. It wants more land, not less control.

In any case, the federal government has known the solution since 2008, when Transport Canada brought experts together to improve the Asia Pacific Gateway. “We recommend,” they said, “that a single port authority be created to include the existing Vancouver ports plus Prince Rupert.”

And they left no doubt: “This is the only way to assure complete collaboration of Canada’s West Coast ports.”

They also asked that policy makers

  • “develop container capacity in Prince Rupert before making investments in Vancouver” and
  • take a systematic approach to capacity before deciding “that a particular port must necessarily be physically larger.”

What’s more, the best current analysis shows that the combined ports can double their container capacity by 2020, without Terminal 2. That would keep them far ahead of increased business, so there’s time to amalgamate smoothly.

For its part, Prince Rupert has the space and desire to expand the capacity of its natural deep-water port. Its industrial land, shorter routes to Asia, rail synergies and top-notch reputation are promising.

Meanwhile, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority uses its “Port of Vancouver” alias to greenwash with ads about its love of the Fraser. It also laments its lack of industrial land to expand its rental holdings, such as the Harvest Power site.

Between sobs, it tries to annex two square kilometres of estuary and buys up fertile farmland like the Gilmore Farm in East Richmond at ALR prices—to rent it out at industrial rates if it can overcome our pro-ALR resistance.

The harm, especially to estuary habitat of international significance, will get beyond repair unless sanity prevails. Unconscionable.

Visit Site C via video with Emma Gilchrist

November 16, 2016

The Site C dam site is far from the Fraser Estuary, but it’s worth keeping close in our thoughts. Before we get into the state of the challenge, let’s make a quick detour to Site C, if only to grasp how distant it is in a way and then how close it deserves to be in what we care about.

Here (below) is the Google Map. It shows a route from Roberts Bank in the estuary to Site C on the Peace River, 1200 kilometres away. Let’s say one travels for seven hours a day. Can you guess how long it takes to get there?

From Roberts Bank in the Fraser River Estuary to Site C on the Peace River

Right! Cycling, 10 days. Driving, 2 days. Walking, 5 weeks.

By video, seconds. You’re almost there!

emma-gilchrist-at-site-cRichmond’s Coun. Harold Steves has reminded us that our fellow British Columbians in the Peace Valley are standing up for agricultural, ecological and human values there as strongly as ever. He said to watch Cutting the Spin about the Site C Dam. Five minutes well spent!

Site C on the Peace River, BCThe video features Emma Gilchrist, executive director of DeSmog Canada. Today she added another Site C video, turning phoney polling by the BC government on its head.

Reach it from the article “70% of British Columbians Support Pausing Site C Dam Construction, New Poll Finds.” Only three minutes—well spent!

Re Massey: Time to “incorporate local advice”?

November 5, 2016

With the recent Richmond News letter from BC transport minister Todd Stone (Oct. 25), I gained new admiration for the City of Richmond. Mr. Stone told us that his surrogates in the Massey Project have met with the city “111 times.” But the letter showed he hadn’t heeded.

His project remains stuck in a 1950s reaction to a 2016 opportunity, which his letter called “the worst bottleneck in the province.” The city, with firm support from Metro Vancouver and its staff experts, keeps pointing out it’s no solution to shift the bottleneck north—or pour twice as much traffic into it.

A few months ago, the Metro Vancouver board rejected the province’s mega-bridge plan. What’s more, the region’s mayors were almost unanimous, and they provided clear advice that the province is not following. Yet the Stone letter ends with a promise to “continue to incorporate local advice.”

massey-twinRichmond suggests adding a two-lane tube to the tunnel to enable a rapid transit lane each way. (That concept assumes the province would also finish the half-done seismic retrofit and add near-due refurbishing.) Once a BC Liberal concept, it’s now pretty much a consensus concept, with wide support from informed citizens.

My previous article titled “Is the Christy Clark Bridge the best way”  prompted Mr. Stone to write his letter. My article is consistent with the concept I’ve just described, but his letter ignores it. Similarly, the Massey Project has found ways to keep ignoring that alternative for years.

The Stone letter showed one of those ways. Under the guise of a response, it argued against a tunnel that would somehow cost more than the bridge. But sky-high tunnel expense only applies to the project’s 10-lane tunnel-gone-wild “option,” which no one seems to like.

That unloved mega-tunnel “option” is not even possible in the Massey corridor unless the existing tunnel gets removed first. The mega-tunnel is really just a straw man, posing as the alternative option so the mega-bridge seems less bad.

massey-twinLet’s get back to the “twinned” Massey Tunnel, an actual alternative to the proposed mega-bridge. As depicted at right, the refurbished four-lane Legacy Tube would be flanked by a new two-lane “twin” tube. It’s the green line I’ve labeled “Green Tube” because of gentle impact on nature.

(Or should it be called the Eco Tube, with “Eco” meaning “Economical” and “Ecological”?)

Tube-name game aside, the true alternative would also require related transit action such as a big increase in Canada Line capacity. While getting people to their destinations via pleasant and efficient trips, it would then be as useful for a liveable region as the misfit bridge is harmful.

Also, it would save billions.

For now, we need Minister Stone to keep his recent promise to us and “incorporate local advice.” As first steps, he could acknowledge the genuine alternative and consider it.

To the City of Richmond, best of luck in this surreal encounter.

_______

This article also appeared as “Your tube could be Eco Tube . . .” in the Richmond News of Nov. 2, 2016.

Respond to the Environmental Assessment Review Panel re Roberts Bank Terminal 2 by Oct 28, 2016

October 24, 2016
Rendering of proposed Terminal 2, Roberts Bank

Rendering of proposed Terminal 2, Roberts Bank, Delta, British Columbia

If you have concerns about Port Metro Vancouver’s proposed Terminal 2 at Roberts Bank, you have till Friday, October 28 to respond. (That’s until midnight, but send your comments before 9 p.m. Pacific Time to be safe.)

Email to the Review Panel, Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project, Panel.RBT2@ceaa.gc.ca, with your comments in the message or an attachment.

If you’re still learning about it, you could scroll down to “Roberts Bank Terminal 2 versus environment,” the article just below this one, for background.

Also, Delta conservationist Susan Jones knows the issue better than anyone, and she has prepared this sheet of “Many reasons to reject Terminal 2 at Roberts Bank.” It’s a Word document so that it’s easy to copy and paste points—and typically then refine them for one’s comments to the review panel.

Your submission does not have to be long.  The following are two examples of short but powerful letters that have been submitted:

We wish to go on record as being adamantly OPPOSED to any further expansion of the Deltaport. Volumes have been written outlining the fact the flyway for migrating birds will be adversely affected. After it has been done, there will be little gratification in hearing those responsible say “sorry”.

The location of the proposed terminal is the best Dungeness crab grounds on the Fraser river flats. There is no way that these crab grounds can be duplicated anywhere else. This is a shame if those grounds are lost. It looks to me that Port Metro won’t give up until they turn Delta into an industrial park regardless of habitat and the environment.

On the Terminal 2 page at the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, you can see various ways to follow up. One way is to look at some of the comments the Review Panel has received so far.

Please take action by mailing your comments now.

 

 

Roberts Bank Terminal 2 versus environment

October 23, 2016
Port Metro Vancouver rendering of Terminal 2 (lower left) on Roberts Bank, south of Richmond

Port Metro Vancouver rendering of Terminal 2 (lower left) on Roberts Bank, south of Richmond

Port Metro Vancouver, with its self-granted “supremacy” over Metro Vancouver and the ALR, has changed its name—to Port of Vancouver—but kept its ways. They’re not so great for our island city and estuary, the Fraser River Estuary. That’s a challenge.

A current issue is the port’s proposal for Roberts Bank Terminal 2. It would require an artificial island twice the size of the Garden City Lands. As well, aspects like a widened causeway and dredging would make the project directly harmful to wildlife and fish in a much larger area.

A B.C. Ministry of Environment guide describes what’s at stake: “Estuaries, formed where rivers enter the ocean and fresh water mixes with the saltwater environment, are among the most productive ecosystems on earth.” That’s still fairly true of ours, but the port’s empire building doesn’t help.

Fortunately, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has a review panel assessing Terminal 2. At the panel’s request, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) recently expressed its view, which is subtly scathing.

Excerpt: “ECCC concludes that there is a risk of significant adverse environmental effects to biofilm and consequently migratory shorebirds, in particular Western Sandpiper. Resultantly, the predicted effectiveness of the proposed monitoring and follow-up program is insufficient.”

And “Changes to biofilm composition at Roberts Bank have the potential to affect nutrient availability at Brunswick Point during the key spring migratory period, which could have species-level consequences to migratory birds.”

The wonder-food biofilm, along with the vast but at-risk flocks that refuel with it, is a well-known ecological factor. Yet the port brushed it off!

I should also mention that 15 million cubic metres of fill would be dumped in the estuary to form the Terminal 2 island. It’s almost impossible to find that much clean fill, and much of the fill would likely be laced with PCBs. After building up in fish, those chemicals can harm the health of fish eaters.

For British Columbia, especially Richmond and our estuary, there’s a much better alternative to Terminal 2. It could even be good for the port (as a crown corporation), with a chance to regain respect in a new role after getting too full of itself. I’ll have to save the solution for another “Digging Deep.”

For now, you know enough to become involved if you wish. If you’d like to comment to the review panel, act quickly. Deadline: This Friday, October 28.

In any case, by getting this far you’ve already done something to help. You’ve grown in awareness, and it adds up.

Basically,  you can put your comments in an email or in an attachment to the email. Then send it to Panel.RBT2@ceaa.gc.ca. For more tips and links, go to this short and helpful article.

Richmond Tree Protection Bylaw Information Sessions

October 22, 2016

Gordon Jaggs. Tree Preservation Coordnator, Richmond, BC

Update, Dec. 30, 2016:The City of Richmond is holding well-received Info Sessions on the Tree Protection Bylaw.  The first three sessions all went well. Take part in one of the remaining ones. Just click on the Info Sessions on the Tree Protection Bylaw for dates, times and locations.

The “Tree Protection Bylaw Information Sessions” are led by Gordon Jaggs (left), Richmond’s Tree Preservation Coordinator.

The evening are well attended, and participants have had plenty of good things to say about them.

The basic purpose of each of the Tree Protection sessions is to outline how trees are assessed for both retention and removal.  The format allows plenty about half the time for questions and comments.

Some of the other topics that come up:

  • The Parks Department street tree program
  • Innovative measures used during development to retain mature trees
  • Other tree retention projects


Sharon MacGougan, President, Garden City Conservation Society, Richmond, BCA note from Sharon MacGougan:

Garden City Conservation has been working with Save Richmond Trees, a group concerned about the significant loss of mature trees from neighbourhoods. I have made Garden City Conservation Society recommendations to council about this, and Cindy Lee and others have come up with Tree Group Strategies.

The information sessions are an opportunity to learn and have our concerns heard. Please consider attending one of the sessions to speak for trees.

Sharon MacGougan
President, Garden City Conservation Society

Trudeau gov’t favours dirty U.S. coal, not our agriculture and eco-rich river?

October 13, 2016

Hon. Lawrence MacAulay, Canadian Minister of Agriculture“Port development trumps agriculture: federal minister MacAulay” says the headline of Country life in BC, October 2016. It adds, “Senior level of gov’t has the right to exclude BC farms from land reserve.” Breathtaking, like a sucker punch to the solar plexus.

A bit of relief begins with the date of his comment, September 12, two weeks before Steveston–Richmond East MP Joe Peschisolido hosted Hon. Lawrence MacAulay (right), along with many Richmond citizens, at Richmond Country Farms  on September 25. MacAulay is Agriculture Minister in the Trudeau government.

As far as I can tell, Joe Peschisolido is trying hard to represent his constituents. When Joe introduced me to the minister, I tried to share a little related insight (with little response), and Joe told me later that he had turned that into an opportunity to explain our Richmond/BC perspective.

So far I’ve seen no tangible result, but I’m still hoping that something is in the works, especially since the threat of deep dredging of the Fraser River ship channel is so closely tied to the still-absent federal environmental assessment of the “Port Metro Bridge” project.

I’ll share the main part of the Country Life article below and then an outstanding letter to the minister and others from Susan Jones of the Boundary Bay Conservation Committee and then a link to an also-excellent Stephen Rees blog post.

clife_lmacaulay

Here’s the letter from Susan Jones to the minister, prime minster et al.:

Federal Liberal Government misled by Port of Vancouver misinformation

It is alarming that the new Liberal Government of Canada is being completely misled by the Port of Vancouver.  

It is difficult to believe the statements by the federal Minister of Agriculture, Lawrence MacAulay in reference to B.C. agricultural land protected by the provincial Agricultural Land Reserve: “Lower Mainland farmland could be sacrificed to ensure agri-food exports can move to market quickly and efficiently, federal agriculture minister Lawrence MacAulay told Country Life in BC” (“Port Development trumps B.C. agriculture: federal minister MacAulay, Country Life in B.C., October 2016).”

Canada wants to increase export-ready agri-food exports to China and other Asian countries.  It is ironic that the Port of Vancouver claims it needs to industrialize Canada’s best farmland in order to export agricultural products.

There is no evidence to support the claim that we need to industrialize farmland.  This is a ploy by the Port of Vancouver to expand its real estate holdings which will enrich the crown corporation and associates.  It has nothing to do with sensible port business.

Exporting agricultural products has been, and continues to be, important to the Canadian economy.  It can continue without using the precious 5% B.C. farmland.  

The largest increase in agricultural exports is wheat and other grains, which are being accommodated by a new massive grain terminal in North Vancouver.

In terms of processed foods, which were stressed in the article, Vancouver exported 20% more tonnage in 2010 than in 2015.

Fraser Surrey Docks is a wonderful terminal with a large stretch of industrial land which is ideal for the export of specialty crops and processed foods.  The current plans for funneling dirty US thermal coal through this great site are uneconomical and a waste of our precious port lands.             

The Prime Minister and federal Ministers of Agriculture, Transport, Natural Resources, Environment, Fisheries, and Trade don’t seem to be aware they are being duped by the Port of Vancouver.  Isn’t it time to stop listening to paid lobbyists and old guard civil servants and advisors? 

Isn’t it time to listen to public concerns about protecting the ecosystems of the Fraser River delta which interactively support the world’s best salmon river, Canada’s rich farmland, and Canada’s Most Important Bird Area for shorebirds, waterfowl and birds of prey?

For further insight, see Stephen Rees’s blog post, “Port development trumps agriculture.”

Is the Christy Clark Bridge the best way?

October 11, 2016

Christy Clark’s “vanity bridge” adventure is hurtling the wrong way. Can anyone save the day?

Superman? Batman? Richmond?

Christy Clark Bridge

Richmond can! Council’s Harold Steves, Malcolm Brodie, Carol Day and Linda McPhail have enlisted Metro Vancouver and other allies. With public support, they’re striving to get through to our premier or, if necessary, the next one.

As well, they’re seeking a federal environmental assessment. It’s crucial and urgent.

But a change requires an alternative. Luckily, a prior BC Liberal government developed a better plan than Christy’s.

To begin, the BC Liberal plan assumes the seismic upgrade of the existing Massey Tunnel will be completed. (A decade ago, the upgrade stalled after the internal phase, leaving tunnel users at undue risk until the external phase gets done.)

The external seismic upgrade will stabilize the ground around the four-lane legacy tube—the existing tunnel—and its approaches. It should benefit from advances in methods in the lost years, as well as insights from recent seismic analysis for bridge purposes.

Beyond that, the plan envisions an added two-lane tunnel tube, better interchanges and overpasses, and an extensive transit strategy.

The transit aspect features a high-capacity Rapid Bus route on Highway 99 between White Rock and Bridgeport, with a dedicated lane each way for “clean energy buses” and emergency vehicles.

Shoulder bus lanes have gradually appeared along the highway. The present need is for many more buses, along with related transit action such as a big increase in Canada Line capacity. That would reduce car use, freeing road space for other transport.

The new tunnel tube will be placed in a new trench, a little east of the legacy tube, though still seen as part of the Massey Tunnel.

The new tube will have to be installed in time to replace the legacy tube when it undergoes major renovations, closing a pair of lanes at a time. After that, there’ll be six good lanes.

By now, it’s apparent that Christy Clark’s bridge adventure would cost more than stated, but even the stated $3.5 billion could fund the BC Liberal plan very well with a couple of billion to spare. (No need for tolls!)

As well, preempting the cost overrun of the Christy plan could enable seismic retrofit of the B.C. schools that still need funding for it. That might save many families from tragedy.

Also vital: While the Christy plan would assist deep dredging of the Fraser ship channel, the BC Liberal plan deters it. That averts severe harm to the river’s ecology, including already-stressed salmon runs, and to the river delta’s agriculture, including Richmond’s.

It’s time to move on from the “vanity bridge,” a towering symbol made of folly.

The alternative, the dusted-off Liberal plan, is feasible, and it will enable efficient cross-river trips. If they’re pleasant, reliable and safe for all kinds of users, that will be success.

“Massey bridge” screams for independent review

September 20, 2016

For me, George Massey Tunnel replacement problems such as defiled estuary, misused billions and traffic constipation multiply and merge like a nightmare interchange.

We can thank Richmond staff and council—and Metro Vancouver too—for addressing the mega-problem. We can thank the Massey Project and MLA John Yap for illustrating it.

Model of Steveston Interchange if a bridge replaces the tunnel between Richmond and Delta. Photo courtesy of Richmond Councillor Carol Day.

Above, a photo of a Massey Project 3-D model looks south where Steveston Highway meets Highway 99 in 2022, a few billion dollars from now.

Years ago, ahead of its time, the province came up with a much simpler Steveston Interchange redesign than that. I liked it and featured it in an April 2013 “Digging Deep” column. It would have quickly paid off in traffic safety and commuter time saved.

john-yapThat brings us to the Yap precept in a recent Richmond News column: “To do less than replace the tunnel would shamefully and irresponsibly risk the safety of daily commuters.”

Mr. Yap unwittingly implies that Premier Christy Clark is shameful and irresponsible.

How’s that? As late as November 2012, Mr. Yap applauded the premier’s announcement of “the start of work to twin or increase the capacity of the George Massey Tunnel.” (That’s from a John Yap “Constituency Report,” a Shaw TV service to let MLAs showcase themselves.) His comments conveyed that Ms. Clark was not set on removing the tunnel.

Strangely, he didn’t call her irresponsible for that. Later, he stayed silent when the Massey Project’s “Exploring the Options” phase offered four options that are “shameful” by his suspect standards. (All four require seismic upgrades, which he calls “not possible without the risk of damaging the tunnel.”)

Three years ago, the premier announced her choice. To no one’s surprise, it was the fifth option, a big bridge. A few months ago, she began listing safety above congestion as the top reason for the choice, with lots of hype and not much substance.

Looking back, I keep wondering why Mr. Yap didn’t act years earlier to spare us from “irresponsible” thoughts about keeping the tunnel. He was already an MLA when a 2007 report supposedly indicated “serious concerns the tunnel could shift during the required in-stream excavation and stone columns installation” to enhance the tunnel.

Why “supposedly”? When I checked the 2007 report, it said “low risk of accidental damage” (low, not serious) and offered ways to manage it. I mentioned that weeks ago in a column that debunked the safety-scare tactics. As I said then, “we need an independent, wide-reaching and fast-acting analysis of the safety aspect of the Massey options.”

And the project continues to need a federal environmental assessment by a review panel. It’s vital for conserving our vibrant Fraser estuary. I mention it now because we’re being distracted from seeking it.

To end on the bright side, let’s be glad our Richmond and Metro leaders are acting with real vision.

______

Update, Sept. 21, 2016: Mr. Yap’s guest column has already drawn a scathing response from a Richmond citizen, Amy Brooks. InBC Liberals’ bridge trumps our children” in today’s Richmond News, she writes, in part:

My question is, wouldn’t seismically upgrading schools in the Lower Mainland also provide construction jobs, as well as making where children spend a quarter of their day actually safe?

Massey transmission needs federal review

September 13, 2016
gmtt-towers-3

BC Hydro’s rendering of two future transmission towers, 75 and 120 metres tall, carrying high-voltage power lines over Deas Island Regional Park and then over the Fraser to another 120-metre tower (not shown) in Richmond. The view looks northeast toward a rendered Massey bridge.

“I am deeply concerned about the overhead transmission lines. What are the health risks? How would it affect the viewscape?” Those comments from Carol Day, a Richmond councillor, stemmed from a Richmond News article, “BC Hydro reveal plans to reroute power lines from a decommissioned Massey Tunnel.”

The context: In Hydro’s illustration, the two transmission towers fading behind a tree would be on the west side of Deas Island Regional Park, near the south and north shores. Transmission lines would hang between them.

From Deas Island in Delta, the lines would be suspended over the Fraser River to a third tower on the Richmond side. It is not depicted, perhaps so it won’t be noticed until it rises higher than a 37-storey building.

My response to the concerns: There was a long struggle in Tsawwassen about electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from high-voltage overhead lines, with possible links to problems like leukemia. If towers start dangling high-voltage lines over the park, there won’t be much left of viewscapes and viewers.

As a recent Metro Vancouver report puts it, “The proposed bridge and the associated BC Hydro transmission relocation project will . . . create permanent noise, debris and visual impacts.”

Sensibly, the City of Richmond has insisted that the towers are the worst option for a transmission route. Despite “consultation” with Richmond, Metro and a few citizens, Hydro has stuck to the decision it started with.

An engineer who took part in the consultation as a Delta resident tells me it’s safe and easy enough to lay transmission cable “within a box girder on, under or above the bridge deck.” For Hydro, though, it’s cheaper to quickly build separately—with no careful cooperating—before people catch on.

To Hydro: To save a thousand times as much, stop Site C. Or, to help enable a transmission cable under the riverbed, get Port Metro Vancouver to not dredge the ship channel two (or more) metres deeper.

The urgent need is for a federal environmental assessment, preferably by review panel, to address the overall impact of the Massey project, including Hydro and Port Metro aspects. It would have teeth, unlike the feeble B.C. assessment that ignores such aspects.

Our best chance is to support the powers who care. That would involve Metro Vancouver and at least one Member of Parliament with influence in Ottawa and a belief in action for the nature of the Fraser.

___________

This article was also published in the Richmond News as a Digging Deep column, “Transmission lines plan needs review,” September 7, 2016.

Some premier tunnel-safety tips

August 17, 2016

premier-christy-clark-from-common-sense-canadianSafety has become Premier Christy Clark’s top reason to scrap the Massey Tunnel, and she’s voiced three safety concerns on TV. I’ll ask her about them.

Concern 1: Christy, on Shaw’s “Voice of BC,” you told Vaughn Palmer, “If there was an earthquake of significant size, everyone who was in the tunnel would probably never walk out.” Actually, though, an early warning system was installed years ago to reduce the risk.

After an earthquake, sensors pick up harmless seismic waves that arrive much sooner than destructive seismic waves. As CBC News put it, “The moment the sensor detects the first waves of a damaging earthquake, the tunnel closes to traffic.” Vehicles can’t get in, but the ones already in can head out.

Concern 2: Christy, you told Global News, “There is a vital safety issue in the Massey Tunnel. In ten years, that tunnel will no longer be safe to navigate.” Navigate? You may be conflating the need to refurbish the tunnel in ten years (ventilation, lighting, etc.) with your wish to remove it so a deeper channel can be dredged for larger tankers.

Concern 3: On Shaw and Global, you warned about a major earthquake (magnitude 7.0): “Communities on the other side of the river would be cut off, so we have an urgent safety issue to deal with.” Want a suggestion, Christy? Add a two-lane tunnel tube for transit and emergency services—at high seismic standards. (Many people favour solutions like that.)

Readers, let’s hope this gets the premier’s fears on track. Maybe she’ll add the new tube right away? I also suggest she revive a half-done risk-reduction project.

The Massey Tunnel safety risk is mainly from flooding via cracks. The project’s interior phase, which was completed a decade ago, improved the tunnel’s strength and flexibility to meet a set standard: one hour to get out. The exterior phase was put off to save money.

Thanks to technology advances while we waited, this phase is more valuable than ever. At a hundredth the cost of the touted “Port Metro Bridge”!

It would reduce liquefaction, using the best current methods to keep the tunnel aligned and usable. It would also quakeproof the tunnel approaches/exits, replace crash magnets like the Steveston Interchange, and upgrade overpasses. Vehicles leaving the tunnel would then have a drivable route in emergencies.

But the province has recently disparaged this still-needed phase of the old project. They say a 2007 report indicated “serious concerns the tunnel could shift during the required in-stream excavation and stone columns installation.” Not really. It actually said “low risk of accidental damage” and offered ways to manage it.

Christy, to put safety first, we need an independent, wide-reaching and fast-acting analysis of the safety aspect of the Massey options that the current project and informed citizens propose. That includes the bridge, and my engineer advisor is concerned about earthquake-safety questions the bridge team doesn’t know how to answer.

We do know that earthquakes happen. So Christy, please act today. Thank you!
______

This article was published as a Digging Deep column, “I have safety concerns over Christy Clark,” in the Richmond News, August 17, 2016, and as “Premier questioned over tunnel safety” in the Delta Optimist, August 26, 2016.

Learning from wildlife in the Lulu Island Bog

July 27, 2016

“Friends in the Lulu Island Bog”—butterfly, vole and killdeer with bog blueberry and peat moss. Suzanna Wright art, courtesy of the Garden City Conservation Society.

Note: To download Lulu Island Bog colouring sheets and coloured artwork, see “Colouring the Lulu Island Bog,” the article below this one.

The Lulu Island Bog is a treasure of biodiversity. For conserving the Garden City, it’s a natural place to start.

Ready for an armchair tour? Let’s look at the “Friends in the Lulu Island Bog” tableau, a cartoon that stars a small mammal, a bird and an insect.

The setting is a series of four large peat-bog remnants north of Westminster Highway. They stretch from Jacombs Road to Garden City Road.

At lower left in the tableau, a vole pops up for a peak. It better be quick, since one usually sees voles on the bog as bones in coyote scat. And raptors strike fast too.

A local vole like ours got its colour photo in a wonderful book about the Lulu Island Bog. The book details the findings of a study that—among other methods—trapped, recorded and released small mammals unharmed.

Both book and study are called “A Biophysical Inventory and Evaluation of the Lulu Island Bog.” The Richmond Nature Park Society published the book in 2008.

At 356 pages, it is thorough and fascinating. You can pick it up for only $20 at the Richmond Nature House. While you’re there, enjoy the exhibits and Nature Park trails.

If you love a challenge like spotting a vole in its habitat, go to the Richmond Nature Study Area at the east end of the bog. Enter from Jacombs Road near the corner with Westminster Highway. The inventory study found many voles there in dense salal.

The butterfly in “Friends of the Lulu Island Bog” is a western tiger swallowtail. The study found lots of them along Shell Road, between the Nature Park and the Department of Natonal Defence (DND) Lands.

The cheerful bird is a killdeer, or ring-necked plover. Killdeers have often nested in the gravel of the main Garden City Lands entrance from Garden City Road at the west end of the bog.

Near the killdeer in the tableau, you’ll notice bog blueberries, which First Nations people and settlers used to gather. The bushes are short. Bog blueberry thrives on the Lands because the city mows the area annually, which limits taller invasive plants.

Peat moss (sphagnum) is the keystone species of the bog ecosystem. It flourishes best in the DND Lands. We need the federal government to keep protecting that area.

Colouring the Lulu Island Bog

July 10, 2016

As my Digging Deep column in the July 13th Richmond News says, you can download Lulu Island Bog colouring sheets from this blog. Here they are, along with examples coloured by the artist:

___________

And here’s the column, “A timeless story of the Lulu Island Bog.”

The lively tableau below depicts native pollinators with native plants in the Lulu Island Bog.

The native birds and insects were here long before Europeans brought honeybees to North America. In recent years, a disorder that wiped out many honeybee colonies was a stark reminder of the need to conserve robust native diversity.

pollinators-large

At top left in the tableau, with the Pacific crabapple blossoms, there’s a rufous hummingbird. It weighs only a few grams, yet it migrates north from Mexico in spring and south again in the fall.

On the right, feeding from a fireweed flower, there’s an Anna’s hummingbird. It’s so hardy that it lives here all year round.

The bumblebee in the middle is gathering nectar from a bog laurel flower.

At bottom left, a painted lady is flying above the peat moss—sphagnum moss, the keystone species. This kind of butterfly likes rain, but it migrates to warmer climes when the weather gets cool.

Also at bottom, a blue orchard bee is almost hidden among the bog cranberries. Naturally, blue orchard bees are good at pollinating fruit flowers.

By the way, all the native plants in the tableau except the bog laurel have traditional uses for food, warmth, health care, etc. One never knows when a further value will emerge, but for now the bog laurel is pretty, and the bumblebee likes it.

The Lulu Island Bog extends from Westminster Highway north to Alderbridge Way and from Garden City Road east to Jacombs Road. It’s two square kilometres of remnants of peat bogs that once covered almost half of Lulu Island.

The Lulu Island Bog is also called the Central Wetlands. That’s fitting, since the peat bog keeps losing ground to “succession,” evolving to bog forest and fen, which is wetland without the peat moss, bog shrubs and acidic water of bogs.

The decline of the bog ecosystem makes the surviving peat bog more precious—worth restoring and enhancing. Besides conserving natural legacies, the Lulu Island Bog has an interpretive centre, the Nature House, in the Richmond Nature Park.

Each April, there’s a “Hummingbird Homecoming” event in the park. In summer, the fen in the southeast corner of the wetlands (beside Garden City Road) is abuzz with native bees.

People picked up hundreds of Lulu Island Bog colouring sheets like the pollinator one from the Garden City Conservation booth at the Salmon Festival. As well, you can download them from the top of this article.

Tableaus condense natural scenes, and this one uses cartoon style. Still, artist Suzanna Wright and ecology advisor Michael Wolfe, who are teachers, have kept it true to life.

_________

Note: This blog has a related article,Pollinating in the Lulu Island Bog,” from a year ago.