By Roy L Hales
According to Port Metro Vancouver, building a second Robert’s Bank terminal “would play a vital strategic role in Canada’s trade through the Asia-Pacific Gateway.” When it reaches full capacity, the terminal will received up to 260 container ship calls per year. There has been much opposition to this project but, in its’ Addendum To the Environmental Statement, Port Metro Vancouver dismissed criticisms.
The only “significant cumulative effect” that Port Metro Vancouver admitted to was impacts on the endangered southern resident killer whales. This was explained as an addition to an “dominated by human-generated sounds, primarily from vessel traffic, including large commercial vessels, small private boats, whale-watching vessels, and depth sounders.”[1.ROBERTS BANK TERMINAL 2 PROJECT ADDENDUM TO THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT, Port Metro Vancouver, pp. 11, 12]
Port Metro Vancouver Dismissed Criticisms
A number of concerned local residents oppose the expansion of Roberts Bank (T2) because they believe it will result in“the degradation of the quality of life for thousands of Lower Mainland residents; the industrialization of prime agricultural land; and the loss of globally-significant habitat for salmon, migrating birds and orca whales.”
They asked that the Port consider alternate locations.
Port Metro Vancouver refuses to do this, “The assessment did not consider an alternative route within the MSA since the international inbound and outbound shipping lanes are well established and jointly managed by Canada and the U.S.A.” [2. ibid, p 7]
Threat To Birds “Not Significant”
Though the Fraser River Delta has long been recognized as one of North America’s major flyways, the Port dismisses its’ threat to birds as “not significant.”
This totally ignores what the BC Environmental Assessment Office resported a decade ago:
6.35 Section 11.4.5 Waterfowl and Coastal Seabird Habitat (page 331): In addition to providing important habitat for waterfowl and coastal seabird prey items, the eelgrass beds are also critical to the presence and nesting success of the largest heron colony in British Columbia, as mentioned above. Again, the importance of the area to a variety of migratory birds of conservation concern is not being appropriately recognized in the Application.
6.36 Section 11.9.1 Habitat Compensation: EC has little confidence that the compensation strategy as currently proposed will be successful, and is also of the view that the creation of a 3.7 ha island eelgrass bed in the intercauseway area to compensate for the permanent loss of 21.7 ha of existing intertidal mud/sand flat, subtidal habitat, and 3.55 ha of eelgrass bed is not acceptable. The proposed compensation will be created at the expense of existing productive subtidal mudflat. Similarly, the loss of salt marsh area, that was originally created for the existing Deltaport terminal (page 90), will be compensated for by the creation of a 600 m2 marsh at the base of the footprint, again over existing productive habitat. The project, as it is currently envisioned, will impact productive habitat for migratory birds directly and as a result of the proposed compensation strategy. …
6.39 Wildlife Mortality (page 399): With reference to the statement that no mitigation measures are proposed to address the issue of wildlife mortality, the proponent should be aware that the Migratory Birds Convention Act (1994) prohibits the taking or killing of migratory birds, their nests and eggs, and the deposition of harmful substances in areas frequented by migratory birds, …”
Effects on Marine Traffic
The Port’s treatment of shipping is just as shortsighted.
This is one of 18 projects, 15 of which are in BC, that could bring as many as 5,300 transits a year to the Salish Sea.
All of these ships will be going around the San Juan Islands, where concerned residents believe the threat of an oil spill is proportionately magnified.
The Port does not make any reference to other marine traffic and pointed out that most of the traffic leaving Port Roberts is out of it’s jurisdiction (the shaded area on the map above). Never-the-less, they decided the likelihood of one of the ship sailing from Port Roberts having an accident is very low. [2. ibid, p 3] In their worst case scenarios, they suggest a container ship might spill 7,500 m3 of heavy fuel oil, or a container ship could have a collision “resulting in damage to the vessel and/or gear as well as serious injury or fatality.” [3. ibid, p 16]
Illustration at top of page: Cover of ROBERTS BANK TERMINAL 2 PROJECT ADDENDUM TO THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT, Port Metro Vancouver