Updated: Richmond city staff recommend opposition to port expansion

Richmond city staff is recommending council take a stand against the expansion of the Roberts Bank Terminal in Tsawwassen.

The 450-acre project would add three new berths and allow an additional 2.4 million containers to move through the port every year, which the port has claimed would meet its projected demand in 2030.

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The land is a mixture of urban, residential and farming – largely in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) – and includes both resident and wintering birds as well as marine mammal special in the Strait of Georgia.

An independent review panel published its final report in March and, based on this report, city staff are recommending council oppose the expansion and let both federal and provincial governments know about their opposition.

Potential benefits of the project include increased competitiveness for the west coast and more jobs and business opportunities.

However, the panel found a long list of impacts on the environment and the human population, on aquatic species, barn owl populations, Dungeness crab, Chinook salmon, South Resident Killer Whale, cultural activities of the local Indigenous populations, the commercial crab fishery, respiratory impacts, increased noise, light and dust and the loss of some ALR land. The panel also highlighted the effect of a “worst-case oil spill” on marine life as well as commercial and recreational activities and the Indigenous population.

The traffic impact on Richmond from increased trucks wasn’t included in the environmental assessment. The City of Richmond also noted they have concerns about the pressure on ALR land located next to port facilities on the South Arm of the Fraser River in Richmond.

Otto Langer, a former DFO biologist and spokesperson for Fraser Voices, is urging the Trudeau government to reject the port expansion.

“If the Liberal cabinet accepts the RBT2 environmental assessment report and allows this expansion, is there nothing it will reject?” he said in a letter to the Richmond News. “What shoreline or estuary from here to the open ocean will be safe from the unassailable ‘Gateway to the Pacific’ project?”

Langer calls the economic arguments for the project “weak” and adds it will do “irreparable damage to the flora, fauna and micro-organisms who live there.”

He also criticizes the environmental offsets suggested by the port in compensation for the expansion.

“This means obliterating long established, thriving marshes and mudflats at Sturgeon Banks and replacing them with some man-made versions of themselves,” he added in his letter.

The staff report on the expansion of the port is on the agenda for Monday’s general-purposes committee meeting.

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