- BC Games
Port committee to represent public during T2 expansion talks
The proposed expansion of the Roberts Bank terminal is about to undergo an environmental assessment, and the public will be able to have their say through a committee created to hear from local residents.
Port Metro Vancouver created the Delta Port Community Liaison Committee in 2011 following a successful public consultation during the $400-million Third Berth Project. But far from simply being an arm of the federal agency, the committee is made up of a mixture of organizations and causes, some of whom even oppose the development.
Roger Emsley, who joined the Third Berth committee in 2004, was appointed again by Port Metro Vancouver despite the fact his organization Against Port Expansion is well-known for its reservations and concerns over the Terminal 2 expansion.
“My purpose in being there is to make sure that the committee and the Port takes account of those concerns and addresses them,” said Emsley.
Although many members of APE outright oppose any expansion, Emsley says his role is to ensure a balance is kept between the economic driving forces behind the expansion and the need to preserve the environment.
“In terms of the environment we have a world-class ecosystem out there and the science is indicating that it will be compromised and we could lose the western sandpiper population,” he said.
Emsley said the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has previously stated its reservations about the planned location, as does an independent study from 1979. His biggest concern is that Ottawa may overrule environmental agencies in order to push Asian trade out of Western Canada. Committee member Robert Butler, a member of the Delta Farmers Institute, tends to agree.
Being a federal entity, Port Metro Vancouver isn’t restricted by the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) and can expropriate farmland where it’s deemed necessary for the project.
Some farmers still remember the Roberts Bank Backup lands that were expropriated in 1968 for port development when the entire western part of Delta was slated for an industrial park.
“We’re not opposed to port development but we want to remain sustainable,” said Butler.
After losing 88 hectares of farmland to the South Fraser Perimeter Road project, local farmers are understandably concerned about expropriation. And although the Terminal 2 expansion is mainly marine-based, the Deltaport Terminal Road and Rail Improvement Project, which involves road widening and a rail overpass on the Roberts Bank causeway, will require cutting through at least 8.33 hectares of farmland to complete the project.
“We’re talking about the federal government here and they don’t have the same concern or issues with the ALR that the province might have,” said Butler. “And if they want to take something out they’re going to take it.”
Leslie Abramson, a community representative on the committee, is a former Fraser River Harbour Commissioner. She also believes port expansion will happen one way or another because the federal government wants it to happen.
“All we can do is make sure that our Delta gets their fair share and it’s looked after,” she said. “And that’s what I think is the bottom line for everybody on this committee.”
She said the committee is meant to act as a “conduit” between the residents of Delta and the Port.
“We are there to make sure that any concerns they have can be taken back to a committee level and fight like hell to make sure their concerns are at least addressed and they get an answer back.”
Delta Council recently reiterated its position on the Terminal 2 project during a November council meeting to call on the federal government to initiate a federal joint review panel. It’s the most rigorous and strict review possible under the Canadian Environment Assessment Act. The municipality has also written to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency requesting that the panel consider the proposal within the broader context of regional developments, particularly those on Tsawwassen First Nation land. Roberts Bank Terminal 2 is a proposed three-berth container terminal that would provide 2.4-million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent unit containers) of capacity.
• To contact the committee, email firstname.lastname@example.org