Posts Tagged ‘federal environmental assessment’

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!

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Notes: This blog includes an extensive Massey Project section.
For an overview of threats to the estuary, see Let the Fraser Live.

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.

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.

“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.

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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?