Conservationists decry ‘devastating’ impact of B.C. port expansion on orca, salmon

Conservationists are sounding alarm bells about the approval of a massive expansion of the Delta’s Port of Vancouver.

On Thursday, the federal government approved a $2 billion Roberts Bank terminal expansion. This will allow the facility to process an additional 2.4 million containers per year.

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The approval includes 370 legally-binding terms designed to minimize the environmental impact of the project, but conservationists believe it will have a significant impact on biodiversity. said.

“I am truly devastated. I think this is devastating news for anyone interested in and wanting to protect the Salish Sea. I also want to protect and prevent the extinction of killer whales that live in the South.” I think it’s devastating news for all of us, Gonzalez told Global News.

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“We know that this project will have significant and lasting negative impacts on the endangered southern killer whales and their primary prey, the wild Pacific salmon. There are also 102 threatened species that depend on the mouth of the Fraser River today.”

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Delta City opposes one of two proposed projects for Roberts Bank terminals

The Port of Vancouver is already a major economic engine for the region and Canada as a whole, contributing approximately $12 billion to the nation’s GDP.

Roberts Bank 2, as it is known, represents a major expansion of the terminal, including three more ship berths and 122 hectares of new land reclamation.

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The reason for the expansion is clear, the government says, as the region’s west coast ports are projected to fill up by the 2030s.

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“This is a project of great economic benefit to British Columbia and Canada. It will increase the container capacity of the Port of Vancouver by up to 60%,” said Jonathan Wilkinson, Federal Minister for Natural Resources.

Economic organizations are also backing the project. Surrey Trade Commission CEO Anita Huberman said the expansion would strike the right balance between the environment and the economy.

“It would be good to really ensure a sustainable supply chain system that benefits the economy, job creation and not only the local economy, but also the national economy,” she told Global News.

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But groups such as the Georgia Strait Alliance say the expansion will lead to a significant increase in ship traffic, along with an increase in underwater noise that threatens the already plagued orca population in the South. . .

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“By approving this project, the federal government has determined that there is some justification for increased risk to wild Pacific salmon and southern killer whales. “Before any project is approved, we need to plan comprehensively to address the threats facing the region,” Gonzalez said.

“The loss of biodiversity in the region is affecting wild Pacific salmon and other endangered species, and that Canada, in the government’s own words, is experiencing unprecedented levels of biodiversity. We know we are through the crisis.”

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City councilors in Delta City are unanimously opposed to the expansion, citing environmental concerns, and dozens of scientists who specialize in salmon, killer whales and the mouth of the Fraser River are on board.

Coastal Indigenous Peoples on both sides of the border have also called for expansion to halt until a cumulative impact study is completed.

In 2020, a federal review board found that the expansion of marine terminals had “negative and cumulatively negative impacts” on ecosystems. It made 71 recommendations to reduce pollution and noise, including marine mammals, migratory birds, local socioeconomic conditions, and impacts on quality of life.

According to the project’s website, the new terminal will be located in “deep, sub-tidal water to minimize new environmental impacts.”

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Private investment and the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority will fund the expansion’s estimated $3.5 billion cost.

The port currently handles about $275 billion in goods annually and, according to the federal government, the facility supports more than 115,000 jobs and pays $7 billion in wages across Canada.

— With files from Elizabeth McSheffley

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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