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.
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.
T2 - Unwanted and Unnecessary
A new paper has recently been published, authored by our sister group, Citizens Against Port Expansion - CAPE
This paper was used in a recent meeting with APE and CAPE members with Green Party MLA Adam Olsen. We are also going to be using it in meetings with other elected representatives to publicise the stupidity of proceeding with the Roberts Bank Container Terminal 2 Project.
Taxpayers are investing in T2 - despite what VFPA claims
A recent CD Howe Institute research report recommends that the Federal Government restrict Canadian port authorities (read Vancouver Fraser Port Authority) from investing risk capital and instead rely on private capital to finance expansion.
But that is not all that the report says. For one thing it disputes the VFPA assertion that their revenues are not taxpayer monies. Since port properties and the revenues they earn from them are Canadian assets then indeed these are taxpayer monies.
VFPA has committed $863 million of what it claims are its own funds in container terminal expansion. These are in fact taxpayer funds. As the report notes "While it is true that these are not direct tax dollars, this money could instead be returned to the Federal Government and devoted to other projects. So taxpayers are investing in the project". So despite what VFPA keeps trying to claim, the monies being invested in the Roberts Bank Container Terminal 2 (T2) expansion are taxpayer monies.
Not only that but the report suggests that Ottawa "... should cast a critical eye on the proposed T2 expansion project". In the same report the institute also indicates that if private capital is unwilling to finance the project - when they have financed other terminals throughout Canada and the world - this suggests that future demand is too uncertain for T2 to earn reasonable returns.
Does this sound familiar? It should be, this is what APE has been saying for several years. Add this to the potential for significant environmental damage if T2 were to go ahead and these seem to be a good reasons for Ottawa to direct VFPA to abandon T2 and save tax payer monies that can then be invested better elsewhere.
If you agree then please write to the MP for Delta, the Right Hon. Carla Qualtrough at Carla.Qualtrough.C1A@parl.gc.ca
Disturbing Revelations at the 2017 Vancouver Fraser Port Authority Annual General Meeting
A new submission to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency Review Panel for Roberts Bank Container Terminal 2 has been submitted and is now on the CEAA website. The following is that submission.
Having attended the recent Vancouver Fraser Port Authority (VFPA) annual general meeting, I am concerned and confused with some of their messaging and the information provided at that meeting. Some of what was said at that meeting by their senior management appears to run counter to information in the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 (T2) Environmental Impact Statement.
At the AGM the VFPA stated that their vision is to be the world’s most sustainable port. I cannot speak to their other port operations, but in terms of their container operations sustainable they are not. Sustainability has three pillars: Economy, Environment and Socio-Community.
They were challenged at the meeting about their container forecasts. They keep claiming that their forecasts are accurate but their own statistics demonstrate this is not the case. See the below attachment:containing detailed information on container volumes and forecasts:.
These give a clear indication that VFPA continually overstates future container volumes - of course to try and justify the construction of a second container terminal on Roberts Bank.
In fact if we look at the total picture for Canada West Coast container terminal capacities in the attachment we see that by 2020 or thereabouts the West Coast will have added another 3 million in container capacity (TEUs), giving a total capacity on the west coast of more than 8 million TEUs. When we compare that with the actual volumes handled on the West Coast in 2016 of 3.7 million TEUs (of which VFPA handled only 2.9 million), this demonstrates that T2 is not needed in the foreseeable future. In fact VFPA management in answering questions at the AGM admitted that they are now delaying the need for T2 until the end of the next decade.
Clearly there is no business case. VFPA always claimed that they would only move forward with this project if the private sector (i.e. operators) viewed it as viable. But:
1. It is now 2 years since the Request for Qualification process started (June 2015) and almost 1.5 years (end Jan 2016) since the short-listed parties were announced and VFPA has still not identified a private investor that is willing to undertake the project.
2.. VFPA claimed that they would finalize the selection of the Terminal Operator by end 2016 (not achieved) and have selected the Infrastructure Developer by the end of 2017 (process not even launched yet).
Why is VFPA continuing to spend millions of dollars on a process for which no private entity has ever indicated serious interest? This lack of interest seriously undermines VFPA's claim that T2 is actually necessary. Terminal operators around the world regularly invest (and seek out their own environmental permitting) in projects where there is a demonstrable requirement for additional capacity. The lack of operators even willing to bid for this project (even with VFPA doing the environmental permitting) should be interpreted by the Panel as a clear message that T2 is not required.
Furthermore the admission at the AGM that VFPA relies on handling significant volumes of US containers for its forecasts identifies a further risk when viewing what is happening at US west coast ports. Seattle Tacoma volumes are up 8 percent and Los Angeles/Long Beach up 7.5 percent, much higher than VFPA container growth. Seattle Tacoma are on a rapid expansion path and will have a 6 million container capacity by 2020. This is another clear indication that a T2 that relies on significant US volumes is not likely to succeed.
Then there is the question of environmental damage. At the AGM VFPA ducked questions on the potential damage to the Roberts Bank ecosystem.
Is the CEAA Review Panel for T2 aware that VFPA have embarked on sampling and analyzing biofilm on Roberts Bank? This renewed effort - over a year after the Port supposedly completed their environmental assessment - is ineffectual and much too late. Oddly only now are they waking up to the need for analyzing samples for biofilm diatom species composition and their critical nutritional (Omega-3 - fatty acid) value to shorebirds. Years after the VFPA proposed adding a second container terminal in the heart of the richest and most diverse estuary in the whole of Canada are they suddenly realizing the perils. Why now? - Because seemingly, thanks to independent science, they are aware that the public and other agencies (including the Review Panel?) have cottoned onto the huge risk that T2 could endanger an entire species of migratory shorebirds, western sandpipers, as well as undermine commercial salmon fisheries and other wildlife. Equally why use consultants paid by the port to carry out this complex work, when there are plenty of renowned independent researchers here in Canada, Japan and Europe that could give an independent assessment at less cost? As we have seen previously, in-house studies paid for by the VFPA are not going to give anything other than a self-serving perspective.
There are an increasing number of published peer-reviewed scientific papers that demonstrate just how important biofilm is to shorebirds and how this particular biofilm is sensitive to the changes in salinity and currents that would be created by T2. Not only that but if built T2 and its widened causeway would cover over part of this important biofilm.
The Review Panel's decision should be clear: the removal of the omega-3 content of this unique biofilm is either the nail in the coffin for T2, or for Western Sandpipers. Current Port efforts are a forlorn hope that they can somehow show that T2 will not cause the degradation that we know is likely to be the case. The precautionary principle has to be applied, this international migratory bird and wildlife area is much too important to risk its degradation by port development.
Last but not least the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW) are known to be in serious trouble. Their numbers have decreased by 7 in the last year alone. The moves taken by the Port – such as its echo program – are insignificant and ineffective when compared to the plight of this endangered species. T2 and its related vessel operations will cause the SRKW further stress, will further endanger their main food source, and there is every likelihood that this species will go extinct. That would be a real feather in VFPA's cap.
3. Socio Community
At the AGM VFPA admitted that there are still more numbers of empty port semi-trailer rigs than there should be moving to and from its container terminals. The reality is that Lower Mainland communities, Delta and Richmond in particular, simply cannot handle any more trucks on the roads. It is port trucks that are a significant cause of massive line ups and traffic congestion, for example at the George Massey Tunnel. Delta and Richmond cannot absorb the thousands of additional truck trips that T2 will generate. VFPA has failed totally in investing in alternatives to container trucking to and from its terminals. They have done nothing to promote short haul rail or short sea shipping and continue to be lukewarm to the concept of inland terminals, such as the one at Ashcroft in BC. In fact at the AGM the VFPA CEO said that they want more port-trade enabling land close to its terminals and expressed concern that some distribution and logistics operations are moving to places like Calgary because there is a lack of port industrial land in the Lower Mainland. This is exactly what should be happening. There is no need for distribution and logistics centres to be located adjacent or close to marine terminals. Ports elsewhere in the world understand this – why is it so difficult for VFPA to understand? Is it simply empire building at community expense?
Time for the Port to wake up to independent modern science, withdraw their doomed Roberts Bank T2 application and make amends for their eco-destruction elsewhere in the delta. Time for the Port to start walking their talk and assume the new mantle of sustainable environmental leadership that Canadians expect.