Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project Environmental Assessment

Artist rendering of proposed Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project

I have been following Port Metro Vancouver as it works through the process needed for the potential construction of a second terminal near its current Roberts Bank/Deltaport terminal in Delta. The Port has seen a huge increase in container traffic over the past decade, from just under 1.5 million TEU at the beginning of this century to over 3 million TEU in 2012. The only year were there was a dip in container traffic was in 2009 due to the great recession. Port Metro Vancouver believes that this grow will continue on a linear projection into the foreseeable future. While linear growth predictions normal turn out to be false in the long-term, within the decade the Port believes that it will run out of capacity to move containers through our region. This is why the Port is proposing to build a new 2 billion dollar facility which will take up to six years to complete. It will include a 117 hectare three-berth marine terminal, and 42 hectare of additional transportation infrastructure including expanding the causeway that connects the current terminal to Metro Vancouver.

Map of individual components which are part of the proposed Terminal 2 project. Click the map to enlarge.

Port Metro Vancouver is an important part of Metro Vancouver and contributes to the economic vitality of the region. Besides the positive externalities that the Port provides, it also has negative externalities. Port operations have an impact on human health. Air, noise, light, and water pollution are directly linked to human mortality. The Port and its activities cause destruction to wildlife habit and farmland. Of course there is also rail and road congestion which have resulted in the federal and provincial government building a massive amount of highway and rail infrastructure which impacts the livability of our region.

As you can imagine, building a new terminal will have a major impact in Metro Vancouver. To that end, Port Metro Vancouver has filed the project description for the proposed Terminal 2 with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. With the recent overhaul of Canadian environmental laws by the federal Conservative government, it will be interesting to see how the assessment process will now work. As part of the project description, Port Metro Vancouver had to note the environmental, social, and economic effects the project may have on the region. One of the interesting thing I noticed is that there is very little mention on the impact this project will have on human health.

The proposed Terminal 2 project will be built in an environmentally sensitive and wildlife management area. It is both on a major migratory path for birds and is critical habit for killer whales (SRKW). According to the report, the project will result in the loss of marine habit and may result in the motility of fish and marine mammals. The on-going noise from the proposed terminal will also impact humans and animals.

Direct and indirect Project-related effects on coastal birds may include:
Direct loss of intertidal foraging habitats
Indirect effects to intertidal food sources
Increased mortality from collisions
Increased predation risk and associated mortalities from raptors
Habitat loss or alteration surrounding the Project footprint
Sensory disturbance

The project definition also notes that there will be increased risk of accidental spills as well as increased pollution which will impact the ecosystem in Metro Vancouver and south of the border. The project definition also notes the expanded port will increase GHG emissions.

All projects of this size have both positive benefits and negative consequences. The question will be if this proposed project has more benefits than consequences. As a City of Langley resident, I’m a bit concerned about the increase in both rail and truck traffic in my community, and as I posted about on Monday, its effect on human health.

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