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.
Much is wrong with RBT2 – tell the Panel
Much is wrong with RBT2 – time to tell the Panel
The federally appointed Review Panel (the Panel) established to review the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project (RBT2) proposed by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority (VFPA) is asking for input. The panel wants to know if VFPA has now provided sufficient information for this project to proceed to the public hearing phase.
Answer – No, far from it. The information provided thus far fails to provide an independent, reasoned, science-based rationale sufficient to determine that the RBT2 project will not cause significant harm to the Roberts Bank ecosystem should the project be approved. In fact it is just the reverse. There is a high degree of uncertainty that VFPA has failed to address.
So, now it is your turn. Make sure you have your say. Tell the Panel and your MP.
Here is how:
1. Write to your MP. Find their email address here
2. Write to the Panel:
What is deficient with the VFPA Environmental Impact Statement for RBT2? Despite the 15- 20,000 pages of material submitted by VFPA thus far they are still deficient in dealing with key issues, including:
1. Biofilm impacts and the very survival of certain shorebirds and other wildlife species are central to the whole RBT2 development. VFPA and its paid consultants are trying to tell us that RBT2 will not impact the biofilm that is critical to the very survival of shorebirds, the Western Sandpiper in particular. The Port’s responses on this issue are self-serving and biased. Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) disagrees with the Port’s findings and conclusions. ECCC has been very specific – not only are they not satisfied with the Port’s answers on species at risk impacts, they totally disagree with the Port on biofilm impacts. They state:
“In particular, impacts to biofilm could potentially implicate the long-term viability of Western Sandpipers as a species. ECCC similarly characterizes impacts to Western Sandpipers as potentially high in magnitude, permanent, irreversible, and continuous”.
An independent international biofilm experts has this to say “At this point in time, and well into the foreseeable future, our knowledge of the (mudflat) ecosystems is so limited that anyone who says that the port construction will not compromise Roberts Bank is talking through his hat”. He goes on to state:”
… it is obvious that the shorebirds will be compromised right off the bat, and the specific microbial characteristics will also be changed as a function of the sedimentary changes which will undoubtedly occur due to altered current regimes. How those will cascade up to the other living levels is simply not known. ….. deciding to go ahead with the terminal project is a huge ecological gamble, and once it's built, there's no going back”.
Damning condemnations. Add to that the fact that the widened port causeway will cover over significant areas of biofilm and it is clear the Port’s conclusions on this important issue are suspect.
2. Changes in salinity. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has stated that the information put out by the Port and its consultants thus far is insufficient to support the conclusions reached by the Port. There is absolutely no certainty in terms of environmental impacts and a lot of confusion. Without a high degree of clarity on the issue of salinity, there is no way in which a reasoned science-based decision can be made at this time
3. Shorebird populations are in decline. Here is what the New York Times reported recently:
“A worldwide catastrophe is underway among an extraordinary group of birds — the marathon migrants we know as shorebirds. Numbers of some species are falling so quickly that many biologists fear an imminent planet-wide wave of extinctions.”
The Canadian Wildlife Service reported recently, advising that with Western Sandpipers the 2017 season had the lowest number of Western Sandpipers on record since 1991. They went on to state that the overall trend from 1991 to 2017 indicates a decline of -2%/year (P = 0.09). Does the Port agree with this – no. They state that the Western Sandpiper population is stable.
4. Roberts Bank. Over ten years ago Environment Canada stated that further port development at Roberts Bank risked breaking the chain of the Pacific Flyway. The Port ignored this and is trying to go ahead anyway. The Port has thus far refused to comment on comparisons between the East Asia/Australasia Flyway, where there have been huge declines in shorebird populations due to port and industrial development, and the Pacific Flyway. Why won’t the Port address this point.
5. The Precautionary Principle, enshrined in Canada’s environmental regulations. Basically the principle is “better safe than sorry”. Therefore this principle states that where there are threats of serious irreversible damage from a development, such as RBT2, and lack of scientific certainty then the project should not proceed. To proceed risks serious environmental damage as already stated by Environment Canada. If RBT2 is built and the damage occurs this will be a serious international embarrassment to Canada. So again better safe and sorry – don’t build RBT2.
6. Other Wildlife and Endangered Species. The potential for serious or irreversible damage, plus lack of full scientific certainty goes well beyond shorebirds. The environmental health of Roberts Bank is critical for juvenile salmon, herring, crabs, Great Blue Herons and the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales.
7. Do we need another container terminal? No. The current expansions now in progress at existing lower mainland container terminals plus those at Prince Rupert, as well as other capacity increases in the planning stages, are sufficient for Canada’s trading needs for many years to come. RBT2 risks damaging the prospects of existing terminals and adds container capacity that will flood the market. Current stakeholders are opposed to this project which if built would be the most expensive container terminal development in the world.
Make sure you have your say.
Celebrate the return of the Western Sandpipers
Once again in spring 2018 The community groups Citizens Against Port Expansion (CAPE) and Against Port Expansion (APE) celebrated the return of the Western Sandpipers - familiarly known as Peeps - to Roberts Bank in Delta BC.
The Peep In this year was held April 28 at Brunswick Point on Roberts Bank Dyke Delta BC.
Later in the year July/August you can view them as they migrate south for the winter. Drive west down River Road through Ladner. Park at the end of the road and walk along the dyke.
Link to map:
FOUR REASONS TO COME TO BRUNSWICK POINT
1) to CATCH the Annual Visit of the Western Sandpiper
2) to FIND OUT why this little guy is threatened with extinction
3) to LEARN about the Green Wave
4) to UNDERSTAND why Environment Canada & the Port of Vancouver are squabbling about biofilm.
The Western Sandpipers fly north each spring, following the Pacific Flyway, from their overwintering grounds in central and south America to breed in the Arctic. Roberts Bank is a major stopover for the Peeps. They stop to feed and re-fuel for their next long leg north. Their major food source is the unique biofilm found on Roberts Bank. Without access to this biofilm these small birds will be unable to continue their flight north to breed. Despite this the Port of Vancouver is trying to build a second container terminal on Roberts Bank (RBT2) which will likely degrade or destroy this biofilm.
NO BIOFILM MEANS NO BIRDS
Let's send a clear message to the Port and the regulators.
Come out and join us to stop the Port of Vancouver destroying this major wildlife habitat on Roberts Bank
BIRDS MAKE HEADLINES IN BC
Bird Studies Canada has just released a news brief "Birds Make Headlines in BC", authored by James Casey, Fraser Estuary Program Manager, Bird Studies Canada
Here is the news release
For those who follow local news in British Columbia, it would seem that birds have been cropping up a lot so far in 2018. The International Ornithological Congress and Vancouver International Bird Festival are still five months away, but we are already starting to see a number of stories featuring these promising events!
The increased attention on birds is also highlighting some serious issues around the management of birds and bird habitat. For example, Environment and Climate Change Canada recently voiced concerns about risks to Western Sandpipers and other birds posed by the proposed Terminal 2 expansion on Roberts Bank. This was closely followed by an opinion piece by Nature Canada and the University of Victoria Environmental Law Centre on the inadequacies of Canada’s Migratory Bird Convention Act, which is intended to protect migratory birds and their habitats.
But, it hasn’t all been bad news. We also saw the City of Surrey reach out to inform the community about its long-term Climate Adaptation Strategy. The strategy includes options for maintaining bird and wildlife habitat in the face of rising sea levels. You can visit the Coastal Flood Adaptation Strategy page to learn more or weigh in on options for the Mud Bay area.
The province is also taking feedback on how to modernize the management of the Agricultural Land Reserve, which may be of interest to those living in the Lower Mainland. If you would like to see bird and biodiversity values taken into consideration, now is the time to express your views.
Lastly, the City of Delta recently announced that it has developed a Bird and Biodiversity Strategy, emphasizing that Delta – along with the local governments of Richmond, Surrey, and Whiterock; and Tsawassen First Nations – manages the most important piece of bird habitat along the Pacific Coast of North America.
Conserving the Fraser River Estuary Important Bird and Biodiversity Area is a huge responsibility, and an area in which our governments have often fallen short. Because of poor past performance, the Fraser Delta now faces a number of major proposals that undermine the health of the estuary, and are leading to the destruction of bird habitats in ways that could have population-level effects. If you care about birds and the healthy ecosystems they represent, now is a good time to connect with your elected officials and tell them how important the health of the Fraser is to you.
The Roberts Bank Terminal 2 project is likely to open for public comment in only a couple of months. However, it is important to remember that it is likely the federal cabinet that will decide whether the project will proceed, so you may wish to contact your Liberal MPs now if you have comments or concerns about this project. This summer’s barbeque circuit will provide more opportunities to urge MPs across the country to ensure favourable outcomes for birds, and a healthy, functioning environment for future generations. Taking action to maintain the health of the Fraser Estuary is a good place to start.
Bird Studies Canada conserves wild birds through sound science, on-the-ground actions, innovative partnerships, public engagement, and science-based advocacy.
To find our more about Bird Studies Canada please visit
RBT2 - Damning Criticism By Environment Canada
The Federal Panel conducting the environmental assessment of the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 project (T2) had recently asked advice of Environment Canada as to whether the description of the potential adverse effects of building T2 on migratory birds and the mitigation measures proposed by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority (VFPA) were appropriate. The panel wanted to know if Environment Canada agreed with the VFPA, that if mitigation measures were implemented then there would be no residual effects to coastal birds.
Last week Environment Canada responded to the Panel, stating in part:
“Environment and Climate Change Canada maintains that there is insufficient, science-based information to support the Proponent's finding that the Project would not adversely impact intertidal biofilm and consequently, migratory shorebirds in general, and the Western Sandpiper species in particular. ECCC characterizes the Project's residual adverse impacts on biofilm due to predicted changes in salinity as potentially high in magnitude, permanent, irreversible, and, continuous. ECCC's confidence in the EIS's predictions is characterized as low (IBID). In particular, impacts to biofilm could potentially implicate the long-term viability of Western Sandpipers as a species (IBID). ECCC similarly characterizes impacts to Western Sandpipers as potentially high in magnitude, permanent, irreversible, and continuous.”
A damning response, that as reported yesterday in the Vancouver Sun by columnist Larry Pynn, strikes a potential deathblow to the T2 project:.
As Roger Emsley stated in the Vancouver Sun and Province article if the ECCC response "... were a torpedo, I’d say the … port has been holed below the water line,” He then went on to say “We clearly have an environment at Roberts Bank that is fragile, that cannot withstand any more port development, and, finally, Environment Canada has come out with a definitive statement that should stop this project in its tracks.”
And so, should the T2 project be stopped? YES. Years ago Environment Canada stated that any further port expansion at Roberts Bank could break the chain of the Pacific Flyway. Mr. Silvester (CEO of VFPA) and his management team have consistently ignored that advice and moved forward to propose a new port development slap bang in the middle of Roberts Bank, one of the most Important Bird Areas in the whole of North America.
The port authority has done nothing to protect the mudflats and wetlands that are critical to the very survival of millions of shorebirds. T2 is also detrimental to the survival of the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales, to salmon, herring, crabs, eulachon and other wildlife species.
Not only that but Canada’s trading needs can be and are being satisfied by expansion at existing container terminals. VFPA ignores the port of Prince Rupert, even though it has almost unlimited expansion potential - at less than half the cost of T2, without many of the environmental issues. If built T2 would be the most expensive greenfield port development in the whole world.
It is time the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority recognized that this project is not going to be approved and stopped wasting any more taxpayer funds.
If you are interested in reading the full Enironment Canada response you can view it here