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.
Roberts Bank Listed as an area in Danger
A recent report by the conservation group Birdlife International lists Roberts Bank as one of four important bird areas in Canada in danger.
" You've got intensification of agriculture happening, expanding urban development, expanding port development and infrastructure, recreational pressures, shipping pressures, you have all this happening together," said Andrew Couturier, who works with Bird Studies Canada, one of BirdLife International's partners.
This is the very area where Port Metro Vancouver plans to build a second container terminal, with the potential to further damage an area that is noted as being one of the richest and most important ecosystems for migrant and wintering shorebirds in Canada.
We cannot let this happen. Tell Port Metro Vancouver that it must not do any further damage to Roberts Bank.
Read the full report on threats to Roberts Bank
Why Won’t PMV Discuss its Forecasts?
Did you attend either one of Port Metro Vancouver’s recent small group sessions? If so you will recall that participants questioned the economics and justification for building a second container terminal (T2) on Roberts Bank, even though the meeting topic was environmental mitigation. Participants expressed concern regarding the accuracy of the 2014 Ocean Shipping Consultants container forecast and requested that additional information be made available regarding the justification and need for the Project, including a business case and container forecast information from alternate sources.
If you thought for a moment that as a result Port Metro Vancouver (PMV) would set up a separate consultation session to discuss the economics and justification, think again. PMV is steadfastly refusing; therefore there will be no opportunity to discuss this before they produce their Environmental Impact Assessment.
Why do you think this might be? Could it be because the justification for a second terminal is very weak? Could it perhaps be because they are underperforming against their latest forecast, which they have done with every recent forecast that has been produced? Could it be because a good part of their justification relies on moving more and more US containers, which adds no value to the Canadian economy? Or is it that they know T2 – which will be a semi automated terminal with fewer jobs - will need to attract business away from other Vancouver area container terminals: information that they do not want to put out there?
What we do know is that:
1. Their most recent forecast has been significantly reduced (by 600,000 at the 2025 level), yet they will still underperform against that forecast in 2014.
2. China is experiencing a major downturn in their economy which maybe means a much slower growth in imports into Canada.
3. The US economy is growing and continuing to repatriate manufacturing from overseas countries, lessening the need for imports via container.
4. US ports are investing in new infrastructure and have strategies to ensure US containers are handled in the USA, lessening the leakage to West Coast Canadian ports.
5. Container imports are not likely to grow much faster than Canada's GDP growth - currently in the 2 - 3 percent range.
6. Existing terminals in Vancouver have plans to expand and Prince Rupert is already expanding.
7. PMV still maintains it will triple the containers it handles by 2030. That means they would need to expand by close to 7 percent each and every year out to 2030. Not going to happen.
What this means is there is no business justification to build T2. PMV's container growth estimates are likely to top out in the 3-4 percent range for the foreseeable future. And at that level of growth Canada's west coast ports have sufficient capacity in operation now or planned to come online without ever needing to add a second container terminal at Roberts Bank.
If Port Metro Vancouver believes otherwise then they should agree to hold separate consultation sessions so that participants can better understand and ask questions dealing with the whole justification for T2.
Threats to the Fraser River and Estuary and Roberts Bank
November 21 2014
Social and environmental values for one of the most important ecosystems in North America– The Fraser River and Estuary – are under threat and Port Metro Vancouver is at the root of all of these threats.
Four massive projects taken together threaten the Fraser River and its estuary in a worse way than at any time in recent history. Proposed projects include; a jet fuel offloading terminal for Vancouver Airport; an adjacent 80 million litre tank farm; a new coal export terminal that includes barging coal down river; and a massive second container terminal on Roberts Bank.
The risks are twofold. The actual construction of these projects will destroy existing valuable ecosystems that support massive marine and bird life. And an accident – a fuel spill, a container vessel sinking – could wipe out entire species, of invertebrates, salmon, orcas, and migratory and shorebird populations.
Couple all of these with the recent dismantling of environmental regulations and the emasculation of key agencies – Environment Canada and Department of Fisheries and Oceans – and the end result is that if Port Metro Vancouver gets the go ahead for all these projects, it will be to the detriment of communities and important ecosystems all along the Fraser and its estuary.
This is not about nimbyism or anti-trade sentiments. There are alternatives. Suggestions for handling jet fuel deliveries to the airport in a more sustainable manner were discarded. Inland container terminals that would make existing ports more productive are discounted by Port Metro Vancouver. Port Metro Vancouver is in denial that maximizing port expansion at Prince Rupert to handle future growth in container traffic is a better option.
For more detail on some of these threats read the October 15 2014 paper by Otto Langer – Fisheries Biologist and Aquatic Ecologist. Fraser_River_Values-Sandheads_to_Annacis_FINAL2_Nov_15__2014.pdf
Environmental Risks from Port Metro Vancouver’s Plan for a New Container Terminal on Roberts Bank (T2) – as Demonstrated in New Scientific Studies
November 17 2014
Several new international studies have just been published in a special issue of the Journal of Sea Research, an international and multidisciplinary periodical on marine research. These studies, written by international experts in the field of scientific research, relate to biofilm ecology in tidal flats.
There are 17 articles in the special issue, presenting research from the "International Symposium on Trophic Significance of Microbial Biofilm in Tidal Flats", which took place in France in 2011. At last, the international scientific community is waking up to the critical importance of biofilms in the coastal environment. The special issue is the first comprehensive overview of scientific research related to microbial biofilm ecology on tidal flats. Articles include accounts of general biofilm spatio-temporal dynamics, physical and chemical aspects of biofilm export, the trophic role of biofilms in tidal flat ecosystem functioning, and the biofilm-mediated ecosystem services provided by tidal flat ecosystem to humans. The findings highlight both the technical complexity and major role that biofilms play in the functioning, productivity, health and biodiversity of nearshore ecosystems. In addition they speak to the dynamic nature and inherent fragility of biofilm. A major conclusion is that pluri-disciplinary studies linking physics, chemistry, ecology (from molecules to communities) and human activities in coastal zones are needed to achieve real understanding.
Regrettably none of these experts were invited to participate in the Port Metro Vancouver (PMV) Technical Advisory Groups studying the potential impact on Roberts Bank from building T2. As a result the studies that have been conducted on Roberts Bank are nowhere near the standards exhibited at the 2011 symposium and the understanding is severely lacking compared to their European counterparts. This therefore brings into question the overall worth of the work carried out by PMV thus far on biofilm.
What these new studies also show is that coastal ecosystems rank today among the most endangered ecosystems in the world due to human activities. Among wild populations, 48% of shorebird species are declining due to the degradation and loss of habitats anywhere along their flyway. A recent report by the World Wildlife Federation - the “Living Planet Report” - complements this view by suggesting that “… more than 10,000 representative populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish, has declined by 52 per cent since 1970. Put another way, in less than two human generations, population sizes of vertebrate species have dropped by half. These are the living forms that constitute the fabric of the ecosystems which sustain life on Earth – and the barometer of what we are doing to our own planet, our only home. We ignore their decline at our peril.”
One such ecosystem is Roberts Bank on the Fraser River Delta, recognized internationally as a critical stepping-stone for millions of shorebirds migrating along the Pacific Flyway. Roberts Bank supports rich biofilm pastures as well as associated crustacean, mollusc and other invertebrate resources that are the food for Sandpipers and numerous other migratory birds. Alarmingly Port Metro Vancouver’s new container terminal T2, on Roberts Bank, severely jeopardizes this internationally important ecosystem. In particular, the construction of T2 may fatally impact the biofilm. The widened port causeway for T2 would not only be built over and destroy a large area containing biofilm, but the T2 man-made island would likely change tidal flows and currents over Roberts Bank that sustain the remaining biofilm. Removing such an essential food source could doom the entire species of Western Sandpiper as well as other shorebird species.
The risks to Roberts Bank from Port Metro Vancouver’s container terminal expansion are too severe. We simply cannot afford to risk the destruction of migratory and shorebird feeding grounds on Roberts Bank by development of a second container port.
As the World Wildlife Federation says: “By taking more from our ecosystems and natural processes than can be replenished, we are jeopardizing our very future. Nature conservation and sustainable development go hand-in-hand. They are not only about preserving biodiversity and wild places, but just as much about safeguarding the future of humanity – our well-being, economy, food security and social stability – indeed, our very survival.”
Let’s heed the warning – and say no to T2.