Port Roberts Bank rival crosses hurdle in assessing port proposal

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GCT Global Container Terminals’ proposal has been cleared to enter the next phase of a joint environmental review.

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The challenger to the Port of Vancouver’s plans to increase capacity for container trade at Roberts Bank has crossed a hurdle to advance his own proposal.

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The BC environmental assessment agency recently sent GCT Global Container Terminals’ Deltaport Expansion / Berth 4 proposal for public comment after accepting the company’s proposal. detailed description of the project for evaluation as part of a joint evaluation plan with the Federal Impact Assessment Agency.

“So far we think the process is working well,” said Marko Dekovic, vice president of public affairs at GCT, although it is not clear that the $ 1.6 billion proposal will receive a welcome. more favorable from those who opposed the port of Vancouver’s own $ 3.5 billion proposal from Roberts Bank Terminal 2.

In the southern delta, where the Fraser River meets the Strait of Georgia, Roberts Bank is already home to Deltaport, the Port of Vancouver’s largest container terminal and where the Port Authority is keen to absorb the anticipated growth in container trade in Asia- Peaceful.

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Pier 4 would involve the filling of an additional 54 hectares at the existing Deltaport terminal that GCT operates, to accommodate an additional two million 20-foot equivalent containers each year, which the company says is a gradual expansion with less environmental impact. that can be built. earlier than the proposal for Terminal 2 of the port.

“It would be premature to say” what will be the biggest environmental concern of his idea of ​​filling an additional 54 hectares of Roberts Bank, Dekovic said.

This will come from public concerns raised in the public engagement process, Dekovic said, which will help establish the scope of the full environmental assessment of Berth 4.

To date, GCT’s initial project description has raised concerns about the project’s impacts on critical habitat for species such as salmon, killer whales and shorebirds, according to one. common synthesis of issues submitted by federal and provincial agencies.

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Tsawwassen First Nation, one of 30 Indigenous Nations consulted during the process, cited likely negative effects on its treaty rights to fish and harvest crab, migratory birds and wildlife, as well as its ability to ” access harvesting areas.

For conservation groups who oppose the Port of Vancouver’s proposal to use fill to create a new 104-hectare island in the estuary, Pier 4’s smaller footprint isn’t a better alternative.

“Any expansion will add more pollution, more habitat loss and more trucks going through Delta and the Lower Mainland,” said Susan Jones, director of the Boundary Bay Conservation Committee.

Jones argued that the builders of Roberts Bank and the adjacent BC Ferries terminal in Tsawwassen did not sufficiently mitigate the environmental damage caused by their initial construction.

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“Station 4 is located in a position where Fisheries and Oceans Canada said in early 2003-2004 you cannot build there,” Jones added, due to additional impacts in the waters between Roberts Bank and the bridge. – jetty leading to the BC Ferries terminal.

Jones’ group argues that the Port of Vancouver did not sufficiently advocate for the need to increase container capacity at Roberts Bank in its response to the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 environmental assessment, a position which, according to her, also applies to platform 4.

“Experts have advised you (should expand) Prince Rupert first before Vancouver because of the horrible traffic jam in Vancouver,” Jones said.

GCT remains in Federal Court with the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, which oversees the Port of Vancouver and owns GCT, with its argument for a fair review of the Berth 4 proposal, which the port initially rejected.

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The court held a four-day hearing on the arguments in the case and Dekovic said the parties were awaiting a decision, which could take up to six months.

Meanwhile, the Port of Vancouver completed its own environmental assessment for Terminal 2 in 2020, which then Environment Minister John Wilkinson returned with additional questions the government wanted to answer.

Port spokeswoman Rebecca Abel said answering the questions involved more than a year of additional technical work and consultations with indigenous groups, but she submitted her response this summer.

“We hope a decision will be made as soon as possible,” Abel said via email.

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