The irreplaceable Roberts Bank is facing a proposed terminal 2 expansion by Port Metro Vancouver (PMV).
Roberts Bank is part of the Fraser River Estuary, along with Sturgeon Bank and Boundary Bay, and is one of the most important wetlands on the west coast. Roberts Bank is South of the south arm of the Fraser River.
The Fraser River Estuary is one of the most important ecosystems for migrating and wintering birds in Canada, supporting globally or continentally significant populations of 15 species including Snow Goose, Trumpeter Swan, and Blue Heron. The Fraser River Estuary is also extremely important for salmon and other fish. More than two billion juvenile salmon live in the Fraser River Estuary before travelling to the ocean.
The Roberts Bank Wildlife Management Area was established by the Wildlife Area Regulations of the Canada Wildlife Act in 2012 for wildlife conservation, research and interpretation. However, portions of the wetland around the port are excluded. Roberts Bank was designated an Important Bird Area, along with Boundary Bay and Sturgeon Bank.
The Port Metro Vancouver (PMV) is a corporation established by the Government of Canada in 2008 through the merger of three different port authorities in the Vancouver area. PMV is financially self-sufficient and accountable to the federal Minister of Transport.
PMV is proposing the construction of a second terminal at Roberts Bank adjacent to the existing Deltaport container terminal and Westshore coal terminal. The Terminal 2 expansion is the latest in a series of developments at the Roberts Bank Port. A third berth for the existing Deltaport terminal was completed in 2010, and road and rail improvements are to be completed in 2015.
The Terminal 2 expansion will add an additional 2.4 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of container capacity, doubling the container capacity of the Roberts Bank port. The expansion is intended to satisfy projected container capacity until 2030. PMV expects container traffic to double over the next 10 to 15 years and triple by 2030.
Against Port Expansion (APE), a group opposed to expansion at Roberts Bank, has challenged the business case for behind the port expansion. APE argues that PMV is understating existing capacity and overestimating growth. APE also argues that Roberts Bank is important and irreplaceable habitat for migratory birds and fish. PMV habitat banking projects, to be used as offsets for further expansion, have also been a failure.
The BC Great Blue Heron Society has proposed the creation of a National Wildlife Area in the Fraser River Delta, including Roberts Bank. This proposal would provide permanent protection of habitat for migratory birds in the Fraser River Delta.
The terminal 2 expansion was referred to a Canadian Environmental Assessment review panel in January 2014. The Terminal 2 expansion is expected to have a number of impacts on local wildlife including loss of fish and marine habitat, increased strikes of marine mammals by ships, loss of foraging habitat for coastal birds, and habitat loss in the project footprint.
Impacts are expected in the Strait of Georgia as well as at Roberts Bank. The Strait of Georgia supports a number of marine mammals, including seals, sea lions, toothed whales, dolphins, porpoises, and baleen whales. The Strait of Georgia was officially designated as Southern Resident Killer Whale critical habitat in 2009.
First Nations and conservation groups have argued that impacts along the entire shipping route should be considered in the assessment process. APE and other groups have also argued that cumulative impacts are not being fully evaluated, including the impacts from other port expansion projects and projects that will increase the number of ships off the west coast.
Join Against Port Expansion (APE) at the second annual Peep-In, to celebrate the return of the western sandpipers to Roberts Bank. April 25, at 10 am.