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.
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
China stops development in its coastal wetlands
China has just announced a plan to halt all business related land reclamation and development projects along its coast.
Port Light Pollution Impacts Shorebirds
The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority's plans to add a second container terminal on Roberts Bank, slap bang in the middle of a major migration stop-over area on the Pacific Flyway, will deliver yet another blow to millions of waterfowl and shore birds. Light pollution is one of a number of reasons the Port is so detrimental to Fraser Estuary wildlife. The lights on Roberts Bank have increased enormously in the last few years. Port lights shine much brighter than other lighting in the area. Lighting impacts from Deltaport are bad enough. The additional light pollution from Terminal 2, coupled with the Port's refusal to bury the powerlines along the port causeway, puts millions of birds at even greater risk.
There is a new paper just published on light pollution impacts
The below article by Anne Murray provides more detail on light pollution.
Effects of Light Pollution on the Environment of the Fraser River Estuary
By Anne Murray
The Fraser River estuary, including areas of Delta both within and outside the dykes, is a major migration stop-over and wintering area on the Canadian west coast for about 5 million birds. Waterfowl, shorebirds and song birds pass through on migration along the Pacific Flyway, travelling between the Arctic and temperate latitudes, and many also stay for the winter in the wetlands and farm fields of the estuary. Internationally-established criteria rank the estuary as the top site in the whole of Canada for number and diversity of birds, under the Important Bird Areas program. The Fraser Delta qualifies as a Wetland of International Importance under a United Nations designation (“Ramsar site”) and as a hemispheric site for shorebirds under yet another international program.
The Canadian Wildlife Service has conducted numerous surveys from the 1970s onwards, showing how waterfowl and shorebirds use wetlands and agricultural land in the Delta. These studies have been augmented by those of conservation and naturalist organizations, such as Ducks Unlimited and the Vancouver Natural History Society, which also regularly surveys bird of prey populations. The Fraser Delta is the most important wintering area in Canada for diversity and numbers of raptors, such as eagles, hawks, falcons and owls. The Delta Farmland and Wildlife Trust has also clearly demonstrated the importance of farmland to raptors, ducks, geese, swans and song birds, while experienced birders frequently find rare birds among the more than 320 species recorded here. In addition, Delta has significant populations of mammals, amphibians and important fish species.
Excessive night lighting emanating from settled areas has increased dramatically in the last few decades and has become a major issue here in the Fraser River estuary. Much night lighting is proven to be inefficient, unnecessary and expensive light pollution. Typically across North America, one third of all artificial lighting shines upwards or sideways, wasting $1 billion a year in energy costs and causing significant environmental and sociological effects. Sky glow is at its worst during periods of rain and fog, conditions that prevail markedly in the Fraser delta during winter.
Artificial light disrupts the natural cycle of daylight and darkness, that activates hormonal regulation of many human and wildlife biological functions. Darkness stimulates the production of melatonin, a hormone that is a key factor in circadian rhythms like sleep cycles and body temperature, blood and urine chemistry, immunity to disease and seasonal behaviour patterns. True darkness is needed for biological activities ranging from deer giving birth, to owls hunting successfully. Overexposure to light at night triggers abnormal behaviours and conditions, effects that may damage entire food chains. Greenhouse lights, for example, have already been observed to change the way some predators hunt, a phenomenon that could eventually alter the balance of nature in the ecosystem. Bright lights at night disorient flying birds and moths and are particularly dangerous for the hundreds of bird species that migrate at night. They are drawn to the light, becoming confused and blinded and collide with structures or fall to the ground exhausted. Tens of thousands of song birds die every year, crashing into floodlit smokestacks, transmission towers or other lighted buildings; the death toll from night lighting is calculated to be over 100 million birds a year across North America. A reduction in some moth populations has been linked to excessive light kills, and although this issue has not been studied in Delta, there are many insect-eating species that would be affected by moth declines. Aquatic species are also at risk from bright lights near the water. Normal salmon migration has been observed to peak during the darker nights of the monthly lunar cycle, making these fish particularly vulnerable to artificially bright nights.
From a human perspective, light pollution severely affects our quality of life and disrupts our activities, including the ancestral right to gaze at the beauty of stars and planets in the night sky. Studies are proving “lights out ~ live longer”, as evidence is found of hormone-related health problems linked to artificial daylight, including breast cancer, pineal gland disfunction and depression. Citizens everywhere are beginning to protest the loss of the night. Delta and British Columbia can learn from other communities across North America how to set about regulating night lighting.
The science is unquestionable. Migratory birds occurring in Delta are an international and legal responsibility for which we are the stewards, and dark skies are an important contributory factor to the sustainability of their populations. Not only the health of birds, but also that of humans, other animals and perhaps the whole ecosystem is at stake.
Western Sandpipers In Decline
Fewer and fewer Western Sandpipers, means we must do more and more to protect them.
“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children's children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.” Theodore Roosevelt
The count of Western Sandpipers passing through Roberts Bank in the spring of 2017 was the lowest on record since annual counts began in 1991. This spring the estimates suggest only 190 thousand birds migrated through Roberts Bank.
The Western Sandpiper, one of the Western Hemisphere’s most abundant shorebirds, uses Roberts Bank in British Columbia, specifically Brunswick point, as a critical stop over site during spring migration, while on the move to nesting grounds in western Alaska and southern Siberia from their overwintering areas stretching from California to Peru. A large percentage of the entire species of Western Sandpipers uses Roberts Bank, where they graze the fatty-acid rich biofilm (unique to the area) to fuel their next leg on the way to their breeding grounds. Sadly the Roberts Bank site is under threat, as a result of the Port of Vancouver’s proposal to build a second container terminal, effectively industrializing the whole area.
Peak counts of Western Sandpiper have been over 1 million birds (in 1994), but typically they range between 90 to 170 thousand birds around the end of April. Spring 2017 saw a maximum daily count of Western Sandpipers at 40 thousand birds. Population estimates of Western Sandpipers typically range between 400 to 640 thousands, with a huge estimate in 1994 of 1.8 million birds, which is more than half of the estimated total number of Western Sandpipers in the world.
Not only are the Western Sandpipers at risk. Millions of shorebirds rely on Roberts Bank and the Fraser Estuary, as do juvenile salmon, southern resident killer whales, crabs, herring, eulachon and sturgeon.
The precautionary principle must apply. Independent science is clear that there is too much at risk. We must stop those “greedy interests” from the further industrialization of Roberts Bank. The damage would be irreversible and mitigation impossible. There simply is no compensatory habitat for shorebirds. The Roberts Bank Container Terminal 2 Project is not sustainable. It must be stopped – now.