Business & Economy
February 1, 2019

Vancouver Region’s Dirty Laundry Now A Bit Cleaner

Maybe this won’t become a thermal coal port

Port Metro Vancouver has cancelled the permit for a project that would have resulted in more thermal coal shipments, these from Fraser Surrey Docks.  The only reason currently available is that the permit’s 83 conditions have not been met — specifically one requiring substantial start of construction by November 30, 2018.

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Price Tags Vancouver has been reporting on the proposal for the Port of Vancouver’s two billion dollar container terminal expansion planned for Roberts Bank in Delta. The CEO of Port Vancouver has also been suggesting that since the new megaships carrying thousands of passengers cannot get under the Lions Gate Bridge, this new facility could also accommodate those passengers disembarking for Vancouver.
One of the challenges with the Port’s proposed facility was the  “hundreds of thousands”  of western sandpipers  migrating to spring Arctic breeding grounds who  feed solely on an algae. This algae is only on the Roberts Bank mudflats.The algae cannot be moved or replaced, meaning that this bird migration would be extinct with port expansion.
As reported by Larry Pynn in The Province    “A written response from Environment and Climate Change Canada to the Canadian Environment Assessment Agency (CEAA) describes the predicted impact of the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project on hundreds of thousands of sandpipers as “potentially high in magnitude, permanent, irreversible, and, continuous”…Concerns centre on the biofilm that the sandpipers consume on the tidal flats at Roberts Bank during their spring migration. The biofilm is a thin, sticky coating secreted predominantly by diatoms to prevent them from being swept away with the tides. Diatoms are at the bottom of a food chain and benefit a host of marine species such as oolichan, sand lance, salmon and crabs…If the container expansion altered the production of biofilm, it could have serious implications for the sandpipers to continue their northward migration.”
The port is putting a happy face on this setback, saying that they will want to work on the issues.  But a representative from B.C. Nature and the local group Against Port Expansion had a more colourful response stating “ If it were a torpedo, I’d say the … port has been holed below the water line. 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.”

 

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There has been a lot of back and forth about industrial development in Delta.  There is the MLA for Delta South who is still double dipping as a member of Delta Council. He’s insisting he represents farm interests but in the same breath advocates single mindedly for an overbuilt multi billion dollar  ten lane bridge to replace the Massey tunnel. Such a bridge would further industrialize that part of the Fraser River and ensure adjoining lands are  permanently removed from any future agricultural consideration.  And then there’s Ivanhoe Cambridge, the real estate arm of a Quebec pension fund  who have developed a whopping 1.2 million square foot mall with 6,000 parking spaces on what was the most arable Class 1 farmland in Canada, land that is controlled by the Tsawwassen First Nation.
It is refreshing to hear from someone who is not trying to facilitate the paving over of prime agricultural lands for industry with things like an $18 million dollar parking lot for port bound trucks and port expansion. As the Vancouver Sun’s Larry Pynn writes there are people who are very concerned about the loss of “prime” (the best in Canada) farmland in South Delta. As farmer Rod Swenson states ““Delta is just getting hacked and torn apart by everything — roads, industry and the First Nations treaty.”

The map above shows Brunswick Point north of Deltaport which has 250 hectares of potentially arable lands. Four families farm this area under provincial Crown leases that are due to expire. Mr. Swenson would like to see the lands designated in perpetuity for agriculture and wildlife. This area of Delta is on one of the big migratory flightways on the continent.
Without this designation, this land could be developed for industry through the Tsawwassen First Nation which has the first right of refusal.Even though this land is in the Agricultural Land Reserve, the First Nations do not need to abide by that designation should they control the land. The Tsawwassen First Nations have already extensively developed their lands for two large shopping malls, housing and industrial warehouses related to the port.
Here is where it gets sticky~how important is agricultural land? Will new farming techniques mean that this land can be more intensively used in the future? And should the Province be keeping this land as agricultural for future generations? The trail along the Brunswick Point dike is also a birdwatching area where the spring migration of hundreds of thousands of western sandpipers can be viewed. Is this a resource that should be protected? Or should the local industrial based economy take precedence?

 

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Price Tags Vancouver has reported on the fact that the previous Provincial Liberal Government did not release documentation that they had met with  Tunnel Engineering Consultants (TEC) who are top experts on immersed tunnel design and construction over the Massey Tunnel replacement. Formed in 1988, TEC has designed and managed some of the world’s “most challenging and innovative tunnel projects. “
The memo below was suppressed from a previous Freedom of Information request to the former Liberal Provincial Government for these type of materials. The memo below dated April 8 2013 outlines that Delcan, an engineering company  approached TEC to “make a presentation to the client the Province of British Columbia” and to update the client on the state of art in immersed tunnelling.”
The memo outlines that “a meeting was organized with 11 attendants from the Ministry of Transportation among which a few important decision making officials, like the regional director, regional managers and the program director for the Massey Tunnel replacement…besides general information about immersed tunnelling, special attention has been given to tunnel safety, earthquake resistance design and comparison with bridge solutions, which are among the important issues the Ministry is dealing with.”
And here is where it gets interesting~”At the end of the meeting attendants, especially the high-ranking officials said the presentation was an eye-opener to them. They further indicated that with this information a tunnel option, either as a full replacement or an additional to the existing one, again had become a viable option, where before they had disregarded that  option, with a new bridge being the only viable solution”.
You can read the full memo below.
M130046 Visit report George Massey Tunnel
 

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The Delta Optimist  has published a  letter that really should have  been their big headline. But never mind~Price Tags Vancouver will do it. We all remember the defeated Liberal government’s bandying around of the proposed multi-billion overbuilt Massey Bridge which would have provided ten lanes on the bridge and led to the industrialization of that part of the Fraser River. The ex premier of the province, Ms. Clark actually got on the podium and when asked during the election why this unsustainable bridge to congestion on each side of it was being built, happily announced “JOBS!”.
It turns out that despite what the past Provincial Liberal government said to the public and continually announced, there was another option to the building of this billion dollar bridge behemoth. Specialists from the Netherlands prepared a presentation~on twinning the existing tunnel in 2013. The Massey Tunnel is named after Douglas Massey’s father, and it was Mr. Massey who made a Freedom Of Information request to the then Provincial Liberal government. That turned up nothing. But a more recent repeated request turned up this Dutch Engineering twin tunnel study and it is publicly available courtesy of the new Transportation Minister, Claire Trevena.
As Mr. Massey wrote in the Optimist: “ A meeting was held on April 4, 2013 between the Ministry of Transportation and Tunnel Engineering Consultants (TEC) of the Netherlands to update the ministry on the state of the art of immersed tunneling.
The content of the 60-page presentation included introduction of TEC worldwide tunnel projects both recent and proposed, and cost-effective options for the George Massey Tunnel. Special attention was given to tunnel safety, earthquake resistance design and comparison with bridge solutions.
The following are quotes taken from that presentation:
1.Tunnels are more suited for various and poor soil conditions.
2. Tunnels are shorter in length than a bridge and have a smaller footprint.
3.Tunnels can be built parallel and close to existing tunnels.
4.Tunnel construction is capable of dealing with severe seismic conditions.
5.Tunnel construction where 80 to 90 per cent of the work could be done by local contractors.
6.Tunnels can be built “safer than an open highway.”
This Dutch team also recommended that they assess the structure and integrity of the current tunnel and increase river depth by using an asphalt mattress instead of riprap. They suggested using longitudinal ventilation and repurpose the existing ventilation ducts as escape pods and for conduits for cyclists and walkers, among other innovative ideas. This report was never made public. As Mr. Massey states ” the former Liberal government never revealed the true facts or alternatives to the public. Instead, it followed the demands of the Port of Vancouver and wrote fear mongering reports that suited its agenda of removing the George Massey Tunnel and deepening the lower Fraser River to suit present and future industrial interests.”
The Dutch have been creating these types of submerged tunnels successfully for years. Looking at twinning the tunnel would preserve the existing habitat and ecosystem of the Fraser, and restrain the industrialization of this sensitive bog and marshland.  Why was this report not released before to the public? And is this a viable option for  creating more capacity crossing the Fraser River?
As Mr. Massey summarizes that this sensitive area is “known the world over as vital component for a continued healthy ecosystem that supports a migratory food source for all marine and wildfowl life from the headwaters of the Fraser River along migratory routes of the Pacific Coast. May the true facts be known.”

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Vicki Huntington needs no introduction to the people living in Delta. Ms. Huntington was the former MLA for Delta South and has an outstanding  background of public service.  Among her many accomplishments she has been a band manager for the Gitanmaax First Nation in Hazelton, worked with the RCMP in their security services, and consulted with  ministers of the Crown in Ottawa. She also served five terms as a Councillor in the City of Delta and two terms as the MLA.  She believes strongly in maintaining farmland for future generations and has been recognized for her strong commitment to farming and nature.
Vicki did not run in the last Provincial election for her independent seat~had she run as an independent, she would have been part of the balance of power in the Provincial government coalition. Instead, Delta Councillor Ian Paton of the Liberals won that seat, and currently double dips between sitting on Delta Council (he is paid $62,000 a year plus his expenses) as well as sitting as an MLA where he makes an additional $106,000 plus. Mr. Paton was named newsmaker of the year  by the Delta Optimist, not for double dipping and denying Delta of a more independent voice on Council, but  because he became  a member of the Provincial legislature.  Mr. Paton claims to want the farmer’s best interest but has been unwavering in the support of a multi-billion dollar ten lane bridge which will industrialize the Fraser River, create congestion on either side of the bridge, and purportedly bring more industry to Delta.
What a shame that the Delta Optimist did not recognize Ms Huntington who was the first independent MLA in over sixty years, and the first to be re-elected. However Ms. Huntington has been appointed to the new committee reviewing the Agricultural Land Commission and Agricultural Land Reserve along with eight other members. Their mission is to provide  “strategic advice, policy guidance and recommendations on how to help revitalize the Agricultural Land Reserve and the Agricultural Land Commission to ensure the provincial goals of preserving agricultural land and encouraging farming and ranching continue to be a priority.”
There is no doubt that the Agricultural Land Reserve is essential to the health and food security of British Columbia and must be maintained for future generations. Price Tags Vancouver has already written about the City of Delta carving out ten acres of farmland for a “truck staging area” for port bound trucks, and how the Port of Vancouver has another  81 acres of farmland in Richmond to add to their 1,457 hectares currently in “industrial use”. It’s a huge problem~should the Port be allowed to take the most arable farmland in Canada to use for truck and container parking and portage? How can farmers be compensated and continue farming when they can garner economic windfalls from development through port expansion or pseudo “farm estates” to well-heeled buyers?
This new Agricultural Land Commission review  committee will seek opinions and feedback and hold meetings with  farming and ranching communities. Recommendations could include changes to the way the Agricultural Land Reserve and the Agricultural Land Commission is set up, regulated and administered. This review is badly needed to ensure that agricultural land is reserved for future populations, and to stop speculators buying up farmland for other purposes. The current MLA for Delta South Mr. Paton is already naysaying the committee appointments,  suggesting that maintaining land in agricultural use restrains the rights of farmers to get extra income from their land. But farmers and speculators did buy that agricultural land  ostensibly for agricultural purposes, and for the future of the region, we must ensure that this agricultural land, the very best in Canada, remains for future generations.

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In the “bad ideas that just won’t go away” department both Port Metro Vancouver and the Delta Optimist are out in force saying how important it is that new facilities are designed to accommodate mega cruise ships. These mega ships have been called “floating skyscrapers laid out sideways” and accommodate over 5,000 people. The gross tonnage is  over 100,000 tons, and these vessels are over 1000 feet wide by 225 wide. These floating cities are designed for the cruise companies to have great economies of scale, but set up logistical problems for ports that have to accommodate these vessels. Indeed there are already lists of places online that are purportedly being ruined by the visits of these behemoths.
But here is what Port Metro Vancouver says~they’ve had a two per cent increase in passenger volumes over the year and the Port says that cruises are a “critical economic driver” bringing in an average 3 million dollars per vessel stay into the economy.
Of course this means that the Port is already embarking on a “pre-feasibility” study to ascertain where this mega cruise ship dock is going to be. As Price Tags Vancouver has previously written the two potential locations are Port Metro Vancouver locations in Richmond  or Delta. Delta port is already trying to expand its facility to accommodate more cargo, despite the fact that such expansion will wipe out critical habitat for the  migratory western sandpiper. But back to those mega ships.
Such ships could provide more customers for the ailing Tsawwassen Mills mall which is failing to attract a mega amount of  customers outside of their annual Boxing Day sale. The ships could also bring candidates to the new casino which will be  potentially placed beside the Massey Tunnel. And in the words of the Delta Optimist “…the port has also been saying cruise lines are building bigger ships which Canada Place won’t be able to accommodate. This summer, a top official with Cruise Lines International Association told the media that Vancouver is behind other cities, such as Seattle, that are investing heavily in their port infrastructure. The Vancouver port shut down Ballantyne Pier to cruise ships in 2014, leaving Canada Place as the city’s only cruise terminal.”

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