Roberts Bank Terminal 2 versus environment

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.

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