Opinion: Wait for the right project


It’s the only one that would be ready in time – it’s an accurate statement but I’m not convinced that means it’s a compelling argument.

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s proposal to build a second container terminal at Roberts Bank has been the subject of a public hearing for the past six weeks or so, during which time it has encountered stormy seas as many have voiced apprehensions over various aspects of Terminal 2, primarily the negative impacts it would have on an environmentally sensitive area.

Delta Mayor George Harvie was among those to raise concerns, telling an independent review panel that the $2-billion undertaking shouldn’t proceed until the scientific community reaches a consensus on the project’s effects on the Pacific Flyway and the millions of shorebirds that frequent the area. Harvie was referring to Environment and Climate Change Canada disagreeing with the port authority’s conclusion that proposed mitigation measures would offset almost all of the ecological harm brought about by constructing another man-made island off Delta’s coast.

In the face of these very real concerns, it appears the port authority has decided to take the discussion in a different direction by hammering home the notion that T2 would be the only project ready in time to deal with a West Coast container capacity crunch that’s apparently on the horizon. Given the T2 review process goes as far back as 2013, there’s no doubt that any proposal getting underway today, like adding a fourth berth to the existing Deltaport container terminal or an expansion elsewhere, would have an extremely lengthy road ahead of it.

It appears the proponents have recognized they’re up against it trying to argue their case on environmental grounds, particularly given the stance taken by federal government scientists, so they’ve shifted focus to an area where they’re on firmer ground, although there are conflicting views over how much container capacity will be needed on the West Coast and by what date it will be required.

It’s a stronger argument, to be sure, but if the best thing Terminal 2 has going for it is that it’s the only project that can be built in time, then I’m not so sure it’s necessarily the right one.

This article by Ted Murphy originally appeared in the Delta Optimist on June 28, 2019.