Environmental jurisdiction over Fraser Surrey Docks questioned
Delta council questioned guarantees of environmental safety in the transportation of coal through Delta during a Monday (Jan. 28) presentation by Port Metro Vancouver on the proposed Fraser Surrey Docks coal transfer station.
"One of the things that does concern is me is Port Metro Vancouver's assessment process ends at the yard gate," said Coun. Bruce McDonald. "The community has to deal with the overall product, the overall project, the overall system. And there doesn't appear to me to be an integrated, cumulative assessment."
Fraser Surrey Docks is undergoing an Environmental Assessment to act as a transfer station from train to barges for two million tonnes of thermal coal per year to begin with, ramping up to four million tonnes when operating at capacity.
Coal trains already roll along the BNSF Railway to Westshore Terminals in Delta but more trains would go through White Rock and Delta to the proposed new terminal on the Fraser River in Surrey if it's approved.
The coal is then loaded onto barges and shipped to Texada Island before it's loaded onto deep-sea vessels for export to Asia.
"Our role is to facilitate trade and so what we need to ensure is that the trade that would happen and occur at any one of our marine terminals is done in the most sustainable way," said Jim Crandles, PMV's director of planning and development.
But that answer did not satisfy council.
Coun. Jeannie Kanakos said there are many aspects of the project that seem to be outside PMV's jurisdiction.
McDonald said Delta has been impacted by multiple additions of highways and railways and will be impacted again if Terminal Two is built.
"I think that's a valid concern for communities because it goes to the heart of quality of life and the ability for the community to survive as we want it to survive as a pleasant place to live," he said.
Crandles said that although PMV only has control over areas of its jurisdiction, it does have authority over the navigation of coal barges along the Fraser River.
"We are still required under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act to ensure that there are not detrimental effects on the environment in activities in the Port," he said.
The environmental assessment, which was submitted last June and is ongoing, looks at the impact to wildlife habitat and riparian areas, community health impacts, such as dust, noise and air quality, and involves municipal, public and First Nations consultation.
Medical health officers for the Lower Mainland's two health authorities voiced their concerns in a Dec. 17 letter to the port, citing increased air emissions and noise, as well as increased road and rail traffic.
Numerous health professionals and groups including the B.C. Lung Association, have previously called on the port to study possible health impacts from the coal expansion projects before any decision on approving them.
Delta Mayor Lois Jackson said some people are basing their opinions without having all of the facts.
"I heard one comment this morning [on the radio] that the [Massey] Tunnel is going to be replaced so that large ships can come through, and you know some of those things just aren't helpful because that's certainly not the case whatsoever," she said.
Delta's chief administrative officer George Harvie said Fraser Surrey Docks will be making its own presentation to Delta council sometime in mid to late February.
— with files from Jeff Nagel, Surrey-North Delta Leader