Safest Massey Thruway Renewal Project

September 6, 2017

Update: On Sep 6, 2017, the BC Government announced that independent experts will review the Massey Project. Very good news!

Victor Wei, P. Eng., Director, Transportation, City of Richmond, is welcoming community input about current Massey Crossing options. Since the responses from the Garden City Conservation Society (GCCS) are well received, the GCCS and Jim Wright have provided a series of four responses:

  1. Massey Options Rationale Sheet
  2. Massey Thruway Renewal Project (MTRP)
  3. Safest Massey Tunnel Option
  4. Why two 2-lane-tubes to add 4 lanes?
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Welcome to Garden City conservation

August 22, 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.

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

The info about the 2017 Annual Gathering of the Garden City Conservation Society now includes a video of a few of the participants doing Aztec dance,

Subscribe to this blog or the Garden City e-News

To follow this blog, use the field near the top of the Menu (at left). When there’s a new article, you will receive an email notification that you can click.

If you support the Garden City Conservation goals, you can subscribe to the Garden City e-News. You will receive a brief emailed issue (one page) no more than an average of twice a month. It is very simple to unsubcribe. It is also simple to subscribe—here.

How “the developers” got their way in spite of Day

August 1, 2017

Ever wonder how “the developers”* get their way with Richmond? Is it that council members are developers at heart or beholden to developer money that gets them elected?

Maybe not. Maybe we simply have clever developers.

Let’s look at an example, the recent public hearing about a house-building bylaw update. A key intent was to ensure sufficient backyard space.

That could let living things thrive—even sturdy trees and birds that are happy with them. Also, it might let neighbours see more sky, not a towering wall that blocks the sunlight and feels like prison with no parole.

The good news is that city staff who deal with house building are adept at consultation. Staff had met with builders about the bylaw revision and also analyzed input from almost 800 citizens.

Despite the usual pressure from developers, staff had kept their balance and brought promising changes to council’s planning committee.

However, that committee has been stacked in the developers’ favour for months, ever since Mayor Malcolm Brodie deleted Coun. Carol Day from it and inserted Coun. Alexa Loo.

When the developers presented the committee with their preferred regulations to replace the staff advice, everyone except Councillors Harold Steves and Chak Au voted for the developer wish list.

But the decision had to face the full council in the next stage. After a hard-fought battle, the consultation-based staff proposals got restored. They were then brought to the public hearing, the final stage.

It slipped out at the hearing that the developers’ shrewd young leader had met with a core group of allies to plan how to get what they wanted.

They’d settled on phrases to keep repeating while aiming to reduce the depth for backyards on most lots to 20 percent of lot depth (from 25 percent, which is one-quarter more). The trick was to make the intrusion into the backyard just a single storey and to show it at low height at the public hearing.

They introduced it after most citizens had spoken, so the developers dominated near the end. Their key phrases, along with visuals, framed the change as a small design preference, enabling a modest “rental unit.”

But past performance is the best predictor of future performance. In that reality, the single storey would likely be 5 metres high (plus roof), as tall as older two-storey houses.

It’s a trophy-house design preference, not oriented to affordable housing or neighbours’ sunshine.

The astute Niti Sharma exposed some of that, but other citizens who could have debunked the developers had already spoken.

At the end, people were allowed to speak again—supposedly for three minutes with strictly new content. The developers’ leader got away with speaking last for ten minutes, hammering home the previous key phrases.

Final result: Only Councillor Day held her ground. Despite her vote, the developers largely got their way.
____________

*A footnote: “The developers” is the usual label, but some in the industry are admirably different.

Conservation leads to new lives

June 29, 2017

With Canada Day two weeks after Father’s Day, it’s a time for grateful reflection. For me, that includes my family’s arrival in Vancouver in late June, 65 years ago.

We came by ocean liner, the MV Georgic, from England to Halifax, and then crossed our new country by train. In the battered photo, we’re stepping into the future on the deck of the Georgic—the children in order from two to seventeen years of age and then our parents. I’m second youngest.

During the voyage, my father gave the keynote speech at a banquet. It told the story of the ship.

I listened and learned the Georgic was a motor vessel, not a steamship. It began life as a passenger liner in 1932 but became a troop ship in World War II. In 1941, German aircraft bombed it at anchor south of the Suez Canal. Ammunition stores exploded, and it burned and sank, a total loss.

Incredibly, it was refloated a few months later and towed 1,500 miles to “British India,” where my future father, an engineer, was chief executive of the Karachi Electric Supply Company. To help the war effort, his electricians restored the motors and everything else electrical (March–December 1942).

After structural work in Bombay (now Mumbai), the Georgic was a troop ship again. After the war, it was refitted as a passenger liner once more, enabling our Atlantic voyage in 1952.

The story ended like this: “And that was how the Georgic came to be known as ‘the ship that lived again’.”

Later, the Georgic’s final voyage brought British troops home from Hong Kong in 1955. It had served longer after death than before it.

My father retired young for health reasons in 1959. Encouraged by George Norris, sculptor and friend, he took up sculpting. He’d gather driftwood from the sea, notice latent form, and carve exquisite sculptures from it. In essence, they’re like the sunken shipwreck with value after all.

Dad died in 1976. Just four of us in the photo are alive for Canada’s 150th birthday, and we all live the Georgic spirit in our own ways. Through my conservation efforts, you may have shared in it.

Jim Wright is past president of the Garden City Conservation Society.

Support the 2017 Oxfam Richmond Walkathon

June 16, 2017

Orval Chapman, longtime Friend of Garden City, is a tireless volunteer despite the severe ongoing effects of being knocked down by a car several years ago. Currently in his mid-eighties, he is a co-organizer of the 2017 Oxfam Walkathon, which will be on Sunday, June 25.

Here, with a photo of Orval, are their poster (click for a larger version) and letter:

Several African nations and also Yemen are now facing the worst famines since the Second World War.

On Sunday, June 25, 1:30–4 p.m., the Richmond Oxfam Committee will once again host a Walkathon at Garry Point Park in order to help. The government of Canada will be doubling all donations up until June 30.

Please join our Oxfam Richmond Walkathon, gather some pledges, or donate to this worthy cause. We would like to have all donations by June 25 so they can reach Oxfam in Ottawa in time. You can also donate online.

Thanks very much!
Richmond Oxfam Committee—Orval Chapman, Carol Rennie, Don Maclean

An  anniversary: Canada’s 150th birthday year is also the 50th anniversary of the Miles for Millions Walkathons across Canada, raising funds for victims of famine in Africa since the 1960s and 70s.

The Fraser Estuary is trending well

June 14, 2017

There’s a promising trend for the Fraser Estuary, the union of mighty river and Salish Sea that begot the Richmond islands, much of Delta and more.

A citizens group and Ecojustice, along with Surrey and New Westminster, recently took the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority to court. They are aiming to prevent the barging of immense amounts of thermal coal through the estuary. While we wait for a decision, we’re spared the hazards of dirty coal, and we can read an informative report here.

Another dire threat from the port is their proposed Roberts Bank Terminal 2, a new artificial island of fill in the mouth of the estuary. (Click image for larger version.)
A federal review panel for the Terminal 2 plan keeps asking tough questions—this month with a focus on marine life. I’m impressed.

The port has announced that it’s now less intent on dredging the Fraser ship channel deeper. That may be part of the port’s strategy to get Terminal 2 approved, but it’s also an opportunity to stop harm to the estuary.

(Note: If the port doesn’t have to include the environmental impact of dredging as a “cumulative effect” of projects in the estuary, it has a better chance of getting Terminal 2 approved. After that assessment by review panel, the port could consider deeper dredging again.)

We trust a new government will listen well and sift through the old one’s half-decade of Massey Replacement content to find what’s ideal for transportation, safety and the environment.

They could revive the pre-Christy plan with extra insights.

The “Expanding the Tunnel” graphic shows the essence of it, with the eco-excellent “Green Tube” providing two new lanes.

That and the four-lane “Legacy Tube” would comprise the expanded Massey Tunnel in the Highway 99 corridor.

However, it could be best to place the Green Tube upriver, further east, as a new tunnel.

In that case, it could connect with Richmond’s Nelson Road, which leads into Highway 91, with just a minimal effect on farmland.

Either way, the aim is to increase the transit capacity by two lanes. (The Green Tube may not be directly used for transit but enables it.)

At least to begin with, Rapid Buses are the likely mode, planned long ago.

The Green Tube is the urgent need. Done fast and well, it could initially divert traffic from the Legacy Tube to expedite the many overdue and near-due renovations. (Legacy lanes could close for the work, a pair at a time.)

After the external phase of the seismic retrofit, that would entail refurbishing of the Legacy Tube with a new ventilation system, installing of ceramic tile throughout, renewal of the in-tunnel transmission line, and other refinements.

Beyond the tunnel, the renewal would include the seismic retrofit of highway approaches, as well as better overpasses and interchanges. That is described in the Phase 2 Guide for the Massey Project and shown here. (Click to enlarge.)

I’ve addressed the obvious, but the new government may do better. Perhaps, for example, they’ll work with the port toward extended operating hours that help reduce the route-clogging port traffic at peak hours.

A fast-tracked BC environmental assessment would be great. The previous Massey Replacement assessment seemed to skirt the process, but I picture this one embracing it.

In short, we humans are getting in tune with the estuary. Hurray!

_______

Notes: This blog includes an extensive Massey Project section.
For an overview of threats to the estuary, see Let the Fraser Live.
Also, have a look at the Garden City Conservation Society’s input to the City of Richmond’s Transport Department about current options for the Massey Crossing, the Massey Options Rationale sheet.

Welcome to 2017 gathering—June 21st

June 7, 2017

Update after the event: Here’s a video of a few of the Annual Gathering participants doing Aztec dance.

Dear Friends of Garden City,

Join in our 2017 Annual Gathering on Wednesday, June 21, at the Richmond United Church hall. Our theme is celebration.

As our June 21st date coincides with the solstice, it’s a perfect chance to honour the earth—and to celebrate all who protect her.

And let’s dance together! A bit of dancer-friendly Aztec Dance will enable us to experience conservation in an ancient way.

Note: At left, Sharon MacGougan is dressed for Aztec dancing and holding a conch for it.

But taking part as a dancer is optional. In the circle, all will share in experience of the present that connects with past and future.

Along with celebrating past achievements, we will look ahead to future ones, celebrating the possibilities with a wishing tree.

Art teacher Suzanna Wright (left) will facilitate that with the help of her instant-art skills.

Suzanna will also be greeting you at the sign-in table, and you can pick up her Lulu Island Bog colouring sheets there. (Learn about them here.)

The event also serves briefly as the annual general meeting of the Garden City Conservation Society.

It’s free—no charge except the $10 annual fee for membership in the society. Looking forward to seeing you!

Let us know right away that you’re coming—or thinking about coming. Our Sign-Up Form allows for shades of maybe. Like us, it is unique and has worked well for years.

Let’s celebrate together!
Sharon MacGougan
President, Garden City Conservation Society, and Aztec Dancer

–––––––––––––––

DETAILS

Please respond:
Visit the Sign-Up Form now to express interest in the gathering and/or to enjoy the unique sign-up approach.

Timetable for Annual Gathering on Wednesday, June 21, 2017:
6:30 pm on: Sign-in, chat and snack (wraps, local strawberries, beverages, etc.
7:00 pm: Start on time.
8:30 pm: Celebration cake and time to chat.
8:45 pm: Clean-up.
9:00 pm: Bye!

Snack: Deliciously healthy finger-food and coffee/tea/juice from 6:30 pm. Delicious cake at 8:30. It can even serve as a light dinner if need be.

Membership in Garden City Conservation Society (to 2018 AGM):
Join/renew, $10 (cash or cheque), at the sign-in table or online (PayPal or credit card) if you support our purposes.* Donations welcome too.

Location:
Richmond United Church hall, 8711 Cambie, on the north side of Cambie Rd just west of Garden City Rd. Park in stalls marked B or C or unmarked. The hall entrance is near the northwest corner. Click the thumbnail at right for a larger image.

Aztec dancing: Click here to see Sharon MacGougan and her Aztec Dance team in action. In the 90-second video, they are dancing at a Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House cultural event earlier this year. Click the thumbnail at right for a larger image of the team.

* Purposes of the Garden City Conservation Society:

  • To help steward the natural legacy of Richmond’s Agricultural Land Reserve area called the Garden City Lands for agricultural, ecological and open-land park uses for community wellness.
  • To research, educate and act to help steward other natural legacies of the “Garden City,” Richmond, in consultation with government and community.
  • To encourage respect for the legacy name “Garden City” as a community value.

Celebrate success in spite of failure

May 24, 2017

Richmond’s new farmland bylaws put a limit on the largest mega-mansions, but they still batter our endangered ALR farmland.

That’s because council, obeying the farmland-owner lobby, set a farmland house-size limit that’s two to four times what it should be under the Ministry of Agriculture guidelines.

Their so-called compromise obliterates the ministry’s aims, such as minimizing any loss of ALR farmland to non-farmer residential use. If the Serengeti National Park compromised its 2,700 endangered elephants council-style, they’d end up shot.

If you’re pro-elephant or pro-farmland, it’s a less than pretty picture. As Richmond’s ALR legacy gets tossed aside, what can we still do?

Celebrate! Celebrate that Councillors Harold Steves and Carol Day did everything in their power to educate their colleagues. Celebrate that Harold, 80 years young, worked all night to prepare his final case for ALR values and shared it with vigor at the public hearing.

Celebrate the seven hundred citizens who took part in early consultation. Celebrate that three hundred citizens then got involved—with self-sacrifice for the common good—to put council in a position to not torpedo the ALR.

Celebrate how citizens mastered the issue to simplify all aspects for council members who have difficulty with reading or finding time for it.

For example, John Roston used graphics to unmask the fallacy that people with the occupation of farmer should always be treated like farmers. John would say that a farmer who is also a surgeon should be treated like a surgeon when removing appendixes and like a farmer when milking cows.

The graphic shows that the new bylaws smile on farmers, and it’s fine they’ve been enabled to easily exceed the house-size limit for non-farmers. But the bylaws should not coddle farmers in their land-investor role, especially when they demand a sky-high house-size limit to inflate the selling price of their land.

Despite John’s input, the council members who fawn on landed farmer-investors clung to an imagined duty to assure their wealth. So we have a bylaw that allows huge farmland houses up to 1000 square metres, as specified by the head farmer-investor.

Skewed council thinking has persisted even though the farmer-investors revealed their perspective early on. One even said, “The elephant in the room is land value,” but some on council wouldn’t heed it if it sat on them.

In contrast, Richmond could have progressed toward protecting our battered farmland and the fragile status of newer lessee farmers—with livelihoods at the lessors’ whims. They are the future that an oblivious council squashes.

We’ve needed to mourn, but let’s get back to celebrating our citizens who made success possible (even though it got blocked). Let’s renew our focus, energy and resolve, and let’s keep up the thoughtfulness.

The trick is to start. Please take a moment to be one in spirit with our farmland lessees, voiceless but vital.

Exellence in protecting Richmond farmland

May 10, 2017

Should Richmond council (A) kowtow to ALR speculators or (B) do their job? A or B?

If you chose B, please ask council to respect our farmland and the citizens they swore to serve. (Details at end.)

Your efforts will support Richmond staff. For years, some of them have tried to get council to stop misuse of our farmland, which is almost all in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).

Remember: “We have to protect our farmland.” That’s a mantra of our entry-level farmers, and they’re right. If council heeds those words, all will be well.

What could matter more? Speculators who’ve trained council to jump for them?

Note: I’ll use the general word “speculators” to include money launderers, opportunists, farmland investors, etc.

Speculators hoard farmland as a commodity to store, build and flaunt their wealth. That can easily conflict with the ALR as a collective reserve that stores agricultural value for the long-term benefit of British Columbians.

The Richmond farming establishment, who inherited much of their land, do care about farming. It’s lucky for them when farmland prices shoot up, but it’s sad when they lobby for non-farm mansions on ALR land to keep those prices high.

Then there’s the scum that Douglas Todd described in Saturday’s Sun. The global “corrupt elite” buy expensive properties here with stolen wealth. I bet that’s had a part in the frenzy of mega-mansions planned for Richmond farmland: 25 that are over 12,000 square feet in the first quarter of 2017, almost equaling the previous seven years.

So how can we protect our farmland? By doing the obvious. There’s a proven solution, roughly what Delta does. A staff report explains the approach, but it seems that some council members missed it or didn’t grasp it.

The essence: Limit farmland house size enough to divert construction of non-farm residences from the ALR to residential areas. (And include a simple approval process so farmers can exceed the limit—for example, for a large extended family of farmers.)

Site Economics consultant Richard Wozny calculated the optimal farmhouse size limit for Richmond. Staff then expressed it as “Option 3”: a limit of 3,650 square feet (plus garage). Simply making that option a bylaw would greatly reduce the problem.

However, staff also calculated slightly differently and arrived at an “Option 2” with a limit of 3,261 square feet (plus garage). After taking a lot of factors into consideration, I’m convinced that Option 2 is the best one for protecting farmland.

Coun. Harold Steves and staff favoured an “Option 1” with a higher limit than Options 2 and 3, but that will not protect farmland nearly as well.

All three of those options can be said to meet the provincial guideline, but Option 2 (limit of 3,261 square feet of flaw area) is best for diverting non-farmer’s residences from ALR/Agriculture farmland to urban residential areas.

Shockingly, Mayor Malcolm Brodie jumped to a limit of almost 10,800 square feet (but half that for lots under 0.2 hectares). Only Coun. Steves and Coun. Carol Day voted against it.

Other than lopping a tier of mega-mansions, the mayor surrendered to the speculators, ignoring massive public input, staff expertise and Ministry of Agriculture guidelines.

Coun. Day urges us to attend the public hearing about this at City Hall on Monday, May 15, at 7 p.m. Come early to sign in to speak (10-minute limit). Remember, “We have to protect our farmland.”

_________________

Notes:

Instead of putting in a lot more links, I’ve put many of them in the form of this helpful memo to council. Also, refer to the farmhouse bylaws: Bylaw 9712, the ALR house size bylaw, which I see as a disaster (along with the related Bylaw 9717) and Bylaw 9706, which allows exception for farmers (useful, in my view).

For tips about participating in the Public Hearing, scroll down or click on “Succeeding at the farm house public hearing.”

Succeeding at the farm house Public Hearing

May 10, 2017

These tips are related to “Exellence in protecting Richmond farmland.” They are tips for the Public Hearing of Monday, March 15, 2017 re farmland house size (floor area).

  1. On the Richmond.ca site, you can see the public hearing agenda. Notice that there are other hearings before the Agriculturally Zoned Land Bylaws at the end. Those preliminary ones will tend to move fast.
  2. It’s a good idea to get a seat early and sign up to speak early (if you wish to speak). The sign-up list will be at a table just outside the council chambers.
  3. The sign-up list will be open for signing from 6:30 p.m. on. Look for it and sign up promptly when you arrive—for yourself only.
  4. However, you could come half an hour or so late if you need to. You may have just standing room at first, but some seats will open up when earlier hearings on the agenda are completed. (It is even possible that staff will open up another room where you can hear what’s going on and come up to speak when it’s your time.)
  5. There’s also a section about public hearings that explains how to make a written submission or a spoken one. Council pays less attention to the written ones, but it’s still worthwhile to send a written one, whether or not you also speak as well.
  6. In written or spoken input to a Public Hearing, it is normal to begin by saying that you support a particular bylaw (perhaps Bylaw 9706) and/or oppose a particular bylaw (perhaps Bylaw 9712 and the related Bylaw 9717).
  7. You can send your written input by email to MayorandCouncillors@richmond.ca or use the online form. Be sure to send it before 4 p.m. on May 15. (That deadline is not an ironclad one, but follow it.)
  8. For speaking to the public hearing, it is useful to come with speaking notes and refer to them while speaking. Also practice a bit, and make sure your remarks will fit easily within ten minutes.
  9. However, most people can make their point quickly, beginning by stating their basic position. It is very effective to have lots of people like you stating their position and giving a concise reason for the position. That makes the point while respecting everyone’s time.
  10. If you have thorough speaking notes that are a rough script, the recording secretary would like to have a copy. You can give a copy to her/him before the meeting begins or right after you speak. (Be sure your name is on it.) This is a thoughtful thing to do, because it makes the recording secretary’s challenging role a bit simpler.
  11. While other people are speaking, make notes so that you can politely rebut their points or reinforce their points.
  12. Even if you did not sign up at the beginning, do this and perhaps speak at the end. The chair (almost always the mayor) will normally ask if there is anyone else who wishes to speak, and at that point you would raise your hand and make sure the chair sees you.
  13. We try to be respectful of the Public Hearing process while helping council to make an informed decision that is best for protecting Richmond’s threatened ALR/Agriculture farmland. We also respect opposing views and the people who state them.
  14. Council members can ask questions of any presenter (normally at the end of the presenter’s remarks), so be prepared for that. In this case they will probably not do that much because of time considerations.
  15. There is an opportunity to speak again for three minutes at the end if new content that will make a difference arises for you to share. (The mayor will ask for a show of hands of anyone who needs to speak again.) If you have made notes and have additional new information to add to a point or refute a point, this is the time to concisely state it.
  16. After all of that, council members will discuss the issue and eventually pass a motion for each bylaw on the topic. For example, there could be a motion to approve Bylaw 9712 or to refer it back to staff with particular instructions.
  17. There’s more on the “Speak at a Public Hearing” page.

The location is the first floor of Richmond City Hall on No. 3 Road at Granville Avenue. There is a fair amount of parking space, but come early to be sure of parking. If need be, park in the parkade to the west, on the other side of Minoru, or in Minoru Park.

________

You can scroll up to go to “Excellence in protecting farmland” or simply click on that link.

My explanation to council is also a very useful if you wish to speak in an informed way and work for excellence.

Christy Clark, Andrew Weaver and thermal coal

April 30, 2017

Just before the main election debate for BC party leaders, Christy Clark sent Justin Trudeau a dirty coal letter. Whether or not the two were in cahoots, it is highly political. It seems crafted to save seats in the BC legislature, not BC jobs.

It says, “I am writing you today to ban the shipment of thermal coal from BC ports.”

As an old saying goes, “Who’d have thunk it?”

____

Of course, Clark excels at dramatic timing, and she used it to grab the limelight on debate day while prodding Trudeau to do a hatchet job. Still, it is a stunning gambit when a cheerleader for coal, bitumen and LNG turns green.

Clark’s commitment is suspect, but in essence the promise is welcome.

That said, the ban has a cost if Trudeau accepts the mission. It will cost the jobs of Canadians and Americans who mine thermal coal, not just Canadians who ship it.

And Clark vows to enforce it herself if Trudeau falters, using a high tax on exports of thermal coal, even from Alberta. To her credit, at least she is honing her trade-war tactics on nice Canadian neighbours before nipping at Donald Trump to make him behave.

In that vein, Clark implies she has crafted a bargaining chip to combat Trumpian lumber tariffs. However, her ban has left nothing to tempt the Americans to be fair. Perhaps the whole thing is play-acting as an election ploy or bargaining ploy. Whatever else, it is bunkum.

In reality, the American lumber lobby that ceaselessly preys on our lumber sector is anything but playful. If Clark instigates a hostile alliance of US coal and lumber, we might end up with BC lumber shut out of the US market.

Fortunately, American homebuilders want our lumber for their own sake. Also, Canadian companies have hedged by buying into the American lumber industry. That is comforting, but less so for Canadian workers than for shareholders.

Ms. Clark has opened quite the can of worms, which are muddy and tangled and who knows what else. Is there a reset button to push?

Possibly.

With her opportunistic approach to thermal coal, Clark contrasts with the steady Andrew Weaver, leader of the BC Green Party. He has funneled the passion of a values-driven movement into a viable political force. He espouses substance, but his affable nature gives him just enough style.

After the throne speech in 2014, Dr. Weaver proposed an amendment that the government explore all means to “halt the expansion of thermal coal exports in British Columbia.” Sadly, MLAs reacted as party automatons, so Weaver got squelched, 73 to 1. Ouch!

In his post-political way, Weaver stayed collaborative. If more MLAs had stood up for their constituents and aimed for consensus, we could be well along by now.

After all, BC’s grassroots movement that rejects dirty coal is very large and informed, and local governments pitch in. The momentum was free for the taking long before Clark got the impulse to surf it.

In what might have been, the phase-out of thermal coal exports from BC ports would be humming along. Meanwhile, the work ethic of former coal workers would be fueling the new economy, as described in Weaver’s platform. That ship has sailed, but a new cruise is possible, perhaps with a new skipper.

Weaver’s response to the recent Clark letter amounts to support in principle. It means the two leaders are well placed to share expectations and meet them together. Voters willing, they could soon begin with a thermal-coal transition plan, with a focus on jobs but a range of economic and ecological outcomes.

They would best forego any irritating direct linkage with softwood lumber. Instead, our province could take the goodwill from the diplomatic phase-out of thermal coal and bring it into a culture of teamwork with the state of Washington, including joint action to conserve and restore the Salish Sea.

All along, Weaver has known that Clark’s intended George Massey Tunnel removal would, by design, enable a mega increase in BC’s shipping of thermal coal, but he wisely does not cry “Hypocrite!”.

______________

For alternative views, see the insightful analyses thermal coal export ban promise by Charlie Smith in the Georgia Straight and Kevin Washbrook in the National Observer. Smith has also written an enlightening column that, in effect, compared the views of the BC party leaders on the promise.

The NDP has been quiet on this issue. John Horgan has pointed out that Christy Clark had years to act on thermal coal and that Clark’s threats of retaliation are an irresponsible approach to the softwood lumber issue.

Crisis point for the Fraser Estuary

April 10, 2017

Choosing to save the Fraser Estuary and the wild salmon means choosing to expose and repel the Big Lie Technique.

It is epitomized by the “No plans to dredge” mantra in the Massey Tunnel removal issue.

Here’s one more try to combat the Big Lie.

_________

Imagine yourself on a spring day five years from now. You’re relaxing in the shade with a sunny view of the Fraser Estuary. Out of the blue, you hear an unseen creative power: “Either keep this as the world’s great salmon river or dredge it deeper to lure more shipping. You must choose.”

Of course, that’s absurd. We really can make the choice, but the time to get results is now, not years from now.

The George Massey Tunnel can still be retained, not removed with unmitigated harm to habitat and the nurture and passage of wild salmon—and orcas and more. In five years, we’ll rue bad consequences if we don’t prevent them now.

This is old news, but it may seem new because it keeps getting negated. Whenever the intent to dredge the channel for larger ships comes up, the BC transport minister or a surrogate jumps in to claim “no plans to dredge.”

In truth, the Massey project’s own 2012 discussion guide says the tunnel is “an impediment to expanded trade at Fraser Surrey Docks (FSD) and points east along the Fraser River” because “many of the newer ocean-going vessels are too large to pass over the tunnel.” Citizens keep simply stating that truth, but denials fog it.

Documents from the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority and Fraser Surrey Docks take further the plans to dredge deeper. With the tunnel gone, they would increase the channel depth by at least two metres to suit Panamax vessels and even some Aframax ones, bearing over 80,000 tonnes.

That doesn’t entirely conflict with “no plans to dredge,” since clear intents to dredge may not be “plans” in every sense. However, the mantra is misleading. And the tactic has been pervasive, even when the BC Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) tried to review the Massey project.

The BC EAO report reveals that First Nations groups like the Musqueam, along with many concerned citizens, alerted the EAO about the “larger plan to dredge the South Arm Fraser River to deepen the channel and accommodate larger vessels,” with “industrialization of the Fraser River.” That was promising.

Then, in response, the transport ministry professed to be “unaware of any plans to dredge the river deeper.” And the port authority “confirmed that VFPA currently has no plans to dredge the Fraser River to create a wider or deeper navigation channel.” The EAO got fooled.

In a Business in Surrey article, FSD CEO Jeff Scott, who is forthright, has described a plan to dredge a little deeper with each annual maintenance. That way, the ship channel depth would be at least 13.5 metres deep (a two-metre increase) within five years. It would be wider too.

After tunnel removal in 2022, an influx of larger freighters and tankers would take over the Fraser. But we can still choose to save the Fraser for wild salmon and ecological riches. The last chance is the BC election, May 9.

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For a slide show on the issue, view Let the Fraser Live!

For hyperlinks to the sources in this article, please see the longer related articles on this Garden City Conservation blog.

The “No plans to dredge the Fraser” plan

March 27, 2017

Dredging ship, Fraser River Pile & Dredge

Removal of the George Massey Tunnel to enable deeper dredging could begin the excruciating demise of the Fraser as the world’s greatest salmon river. In my view, truth has been another casualty.

Let’s focus on the government talking point of “no plans to dredge.” Whenever the intended channel dredging for larger ships comes out, the BC transport minister or a surrogate typically jumps in to say “no plans to dredge” or something much the same.

If you followed the Trump election campaign, you know the stratagem. There, it was “build a wall and make Mexico pay for it” and “replace Obamacare with something terrific” and “never going to lose.” Mantras got drummed in.

With the “no plans to dredge” mantra in the Massey project, there’s a twist that the project’s 2012 discussion guide (page 11) says the tunnel is “an impediment to expanded trade at Fraser Surrey Docks and points east along the Fraser River” because “many of the newer ocean-going vessels are too large to pass over the tunnel.”

Documents from the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority (in a 2013 letter to the Massey project director and in the 2013 president’s report) and from Fraser Surrey Docks express proposals to dredge deeper. With the tunnel gone, they would increase the channel depth by at least two metres to suit larger vessels, some over 80,000 tonnes.

One could say that doesn’t entirely conflict with “no plans to dredge,” since intents to dredge may not be “plans” in every sense. Still, the mantra is misleading.

In 2015 the port authority agreed to Fraser Surrey Docks revising its plans for its thermal coal shipping terminal so it could load large ships (at least Panamax). Since they could only reach the terminal after tunnel removal and deeper dredging, it is obvious that both the port and FSD were planning on the dredging.

Later, the BC Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) report on the Massey project (pages 122) has revealed that the public and Musqueam Indian Band, among others, expressed concerns to the EAO about “a larger plan to dredge the South Arm Fraser River to deepen the channel and accommodate larger vessels,” with “industrialization of the Fraser River.”

But the transport ministry claimed, in response to the EAO, to be “unaware of any plans to dredge the river deeper” (EAO report, page 123). And the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority (VFPA) “confirmed that VFPA currently has no plans to dredge the Fraser River to create a wider or deeper navigation channel” (EAO page 123).

Since the BC Environmental Assessment Office is toothless in this situation, it had to go along with the ministry’s plea it didn’t know anything and the port’s plea it wasn’t planning anything.

“Plan” or not, the documented proposal is to dredge deeper (and wider) in five annual stages. FSD has proposed to simply dredge a little deeper while doing the annual maintenance of the shipping channel. If the project stays on schedule, with tunnel removal in 2022, that step would enable the channel to be used at the new depth of at least 13.5 metres.

In a further twist, the BC EAO report adds, “VFPA also noted that projects proposing new dredging to accommodate vessels that are larger than what the existing channel was designed to accommodate . . . would be subject to review under VFPA’s Project and Environmental Review process” (EAO page 123).

Translation: “Dredging for larger ships will actually occur after all, and the VFPA (alias Port of Vancouver) will handle the environmental protection.” So the fox gets exclusive rights to guard the henhouse.

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Notes: See “Tunnel removal to deep-dredge the Fraser” for more documentation of the planning for deep dredging of the Fraser River ship channel. See Let the Fraser Live! for an exposé of how the situation came to this. See “Transport minister’s myth-busting mission” for an alternative perspective (different from this blog’s).

Update, September 26, 2017: On the very day of the televised leaders debate for the 2017 BC Election, Premier Christy Clark has suddenly found a reason to ask Prime Minister Trudeau to ban thermal coal exports from BC ports. It aims at the thermal coal from the U.S., and it would especially affect the Fraser Surrey Docks situation. Here’s the Clark-to-Trudeau letter.

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.

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This article was also published as a “Digging Deep column” in the Richmond News, March 8, 2017.

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.