Against Port Expansion in the Fraser Estuary BC
APE (Against Port Expansion in the Fraser Estuary BC) is a group of concerned citizens who recognize that plans for container terminal expansion on Roberts Bank (T2) will see 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.
Latest APE Newsletter
We have just published our latest newsletter.
Included in the newsletter is further information on the progress of the Federal Enivonmental Assessment, a critique of Port Metro Vancouver's Enivonmental Impact Statement for Roberts Bank Terminal 2 and further information on where T2 container volumes might come from were this new terminal ever to be built.
Read it here.
T2 not needed for Canadian Container Traffic
It is becoming increasinlgy evident that the expansion of Port Metro Vancouver's container business is mostly coming from the movement of US containers - both inbound and out bound. Without this US traffic Port Metro Vancouver (PMV) simply cannot justify builiding a second container terminal on Roberts Bank.
A recent letter in the Delta Optimist highlighted this. http://www.delta-optimist.com/news/goods-through-deltaport-headed-to-u-s-1.1981775
As the letter points out handling US containers does nothing for the Canadian economy. In delving deeper into this topic what we find is that in 2015 West Coast Canadian Ports will handle over one million US containers, with Port Metro Vancouver handling the majority of these US containers. Furthermore PMV's business case for building a second container terminal is partly justified on the handling of even more US containers than they are today. This finding is supported by a number of articles in industry journals.For example one recent article in "Canadian Shipper" states the following:
“According to a study of U.S. West Coast port volumes by UK-based firm Ocean Shipping Consultants, Vancouver has joined Prince Rupert as a major competitor to the Puget Sound ports of Tacoma and Seattle for U.S. imports. U.S. importers are rapidly moving more containers through Port Metro Vancouver and to Chicago and the upper Midwest, dealing another blow to the ports of Seattle and Tacoma. The share of Vancouver’s containerised imports moving to the U.S. expanded from 7.5 per cent in 2008 to 22.9 per cent in 2013, according to Newark’s Journal of Commerce."
PMV's handling of US containers hurts US ports, such as Seattle and Tacoma that would love to be handling this business. It does nothing for the Canadian economy.
What does all this tell us. If Port Metro Vancouver stuck to its mandate "To facilitate Canada’s trade objectives, ensuring goods are moved safely, while protecting the environment and considering local communities" and.focused its efforts on handling Canadian containers then there would be no need to build a second container terminal on Roberts Bank.
PMV T2 Biofilm Analysis Is Flawed
One of the many failures in Port Metro Vancouver’s Environmental Impact Statement for Roberts Bank Terminal 2 is its incomplete and heavily flawed analysis of the potential impacts on the unique biofilm that is present on Roberts Bank and is a critical food source for millions of migratory birds and shorebirds.
It appears from the work that Port Metro Vancouver (PMV) carried out in this area that they identified the outcome that they wanted to portray and then built a series of hypotheses to support that outcome. Thus the PMV research is nothing more than “decision based fact making”.
The many PMV failures in carrying out a robust assessment of the importance of the Roberts Bank biofilm are becoming all too clear. Notably a number of submissions to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) on the RBT2 environmental assessment identify and document a flawed and incomplete environmental assessment. Perhaps one of the more important submissions (June 15 2015) comes from Environment Canada (http://www.ceaa.gc.ca/050/documents/p80054/101866E.pdf) who state
" ... that recent work on Roberts Bank by international scientists has provided new information on the nature of the intertidal diatom community at the time of the spring breeding migration of Western Sandpipers. The global population of Western Sandpipers, a migratory bird, is dependent on the habitat found in the Roberts Bank area. This new information may better explain why these shorebirds (and likely other migratory bird species) concentrate at this site, as opposed to other sites in the Fraser River delta. Further, the occurrence, abundance and nutritional value of these diatoms may have broader implications across trophic levels in relation to ecosystem productivity of the Fraser River Estuary. This new information casts reasonable doubt on some of the Proponent’s key conclusions with respect to biofilm and migratory birds as presented in the EIS.".
Furthermore Environment Canada notes that “It is unclear how changes in coastal geomorphological processes relating to tidal currents and sedimentation rates over the upper intertidal of Roberts Bank will affect biofilm productivity including in relation to the recently identified diatom".
Not only that but in reviewing PMV’s Environmental Impact Statement they appear to have lumped diatoms into "marine" and "freshwater", which based on other research papers that are available seems to greatly oversimplify the complexities of the Roberts Bank system and is a further indication that their analysis is incomplete.
PMV is also ignoring the potential changes to Roberts Bank that may result from them building a huge man-made island including, habitat loss, direct impacts such as footprint scour, and channel formation; indirect impacts such as sediment distribution and sediment grain size. Many of these were identified by the Port’s own working groups but then brushed aside. One of their technical working groups, commenting on assessment of potential impacts on shorebird populations, went as far as to state that it was not feasible to carry out such an assessment. What did PMV do with this information – they ignored it.
Several recent scientific papers that have recently been published all talk to the importance of the biofilm on Roberts Bank.
In one: “Intertidal biofilm distribution underpins differential tide-following behaviour of two sandpiper species during northward migration” ( http://www.sfu.ca/biology/wildberg/NewCWEPage/papers/JimenezetalECSS2015.pdf ) published in the “Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science Journal” – an international multidisciplinary journal, the research shows the critical importance of Roberts Bank in supporting internationally significant populations of migratory shorebirds and Western Sandpipers in particular.
Key points in the paper include:
- Western sandpipers and dunlin follow ebbing tides while foraging on stopovers.
- Tide following foraging behaviour is stronger for dunlin than western sandpipers.
- Western sandpiper foraging distribution matched biofilm availability. (meaning that this is their preferred food despite other options being available)
- Biofilm, an energy source for shorebirds, merits conservation consideration.
As the paper documents, shorebird species rely on habitats like Roberts Bank, yet these species are becoming increasingly threatened by industrial development, such as the massive Port Metro Vancouver Terminal 2 development.
In another: “Biofilm Consumption and Variable Diet Composition of Western Sandpipers (Calidris mauri) during Migratory Stopover” (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4397082/) it notes that major estuarine stopover locations supporting biofilm are often strategic places for transport and other industrial developments (as of course is the case for Roberts Bank). The paper goes on to note that there are a number of important factors to be considered where biofilm is known to exist, because biofilm is such an important food source at key stopover and feeding sites. It is therefore critical to identify the impacts on these important feeding sites in terms of what further industrial development means and indeed whether it should even be allowed.
What does all this tell us? PMV needs to start over with its analysis of biofilm on Roberts Bank; to engage renowned and independent international experts in the field; and to develop a well researched study that will help to determine whether there should be any further industrial development on Roberts Bank.
Unless and until this is carried out there is no point in convening an Environmental Assessment Panel for Roberts Bank Terminal 2.
Orcas swim right by T2 site
This video was sent in by one of our supporters.
It shows a southern resdient killer whale from Jpod swimming with its baby.The Orcas regularly feed on and hunt spring salmon and chum salmon from spring to fall in the area where T2 would be. The new terminal will be another obstacle to their routine and the migration of salmon up the river.
Of course the new proposed terminal will also destroy crab habitat, obstruct their feeding and migration patterns and take away some of the fishing grounds used by commercial fishermen due to further navigational closures.
Enjoy this while you can. If T2 goes ahead we may never see this again