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Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Metro Vancouver calls for a Federal Environmental Assessment of the Massey Tunnel Replacement Project

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The following is the text of the letter approved by the Metro Vancouver Board today

Planning, Policy and Environment

Tel. 604.432.6350 Fax 604.432‐6296

File: CR‐07‐02‐ENV

The Honourable Catherine McKenna

Minister of Environment and Climate Change
200 Sacré‐Coeur Boulevard
Gatineau, QC K1A 0H3

Dear Minister:

Re: Request for a Federal Environmental Assessment of the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project

On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Greater Vancouver Regional District (‘Metro Vancouver’), I am writing to advise that at its April 1, 2016 regular meeting, the Board adopted the following resolution:

That the GVRD Board send a letter to the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change requesting that the Minister, pursuant to section 14(2) of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012, order a federal environmental assessment of the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project.

Metro Vancouver is the regional government for the southwest region of British Columbia and is comprised of 21 municipalities, 1 electoral area, and 1 Treaty First Nation. We provide regional planning, regional utilities (including liquid waste, solid waste, and drinking water), and political leadership to a total population base of approximately 2.4 million in the greater Vancouver area.

Given our broad responsibilities in delivering regional services and in protecting the ongoing livability of this region, our Board is requesting a federal environmental assessment of the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project. We are requesting that a federal environmental assessment be referred to a review panel on which Metro Vancouver and other key stakeholder groups would have an
opportunity to participate.

Federal Environmental Assessment Review Request

Metro Vancouver’s specific concerns with respect to the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project are related to our legislative responsibilities in the areas of regional growth management and planning, air quality and climate change, environment, regional parks, and regional utilities.

The Province of British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s proposal to replace the existing George Massey tunnel with a 10‐lane tolled bridge has the potential to cause significant adverse environmental effects. Potential impacts include:

1. Changes to Regional Transportation Patterns which Affect Regional Growth Management.

Although two lanes of the 10‐lane tolled bridge are to be dedicated transit/HOV lanes, the project as a whole represents a major ($3.5 billion) expansion of car‐oriented infrastructure.

If implemented, it will create growth pressures that may impede the realization of Metro 2040: Shaping our Future, the regional growth strategy, which promotes compact, transit oriented development patterns, the efficient use of land, and an efficient transportation network.

The potential impacts of this project on surrounding agricultural land, which the regional growth strategy strives to protect, and the potential to shift traffic congestion to adjacent communities, are of particular concern.

Transportation decisions and future land use are inextricably linked and have direct and far reaching effects on the environment. These decisions will influence, if not determine, whether human settlement patterns are compact or sprawling. A project of this magnitude requires an understanding of its impacts on future growth in the region to determine its potential to cause significant adverse environmental effects.

2. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Climate Change

Metro Vancouver and its member municipalities are committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and taking action on climate change. Metro 2040: Shaping our Future, the regional growth strategy, encourages land use and transportation infrastructure that reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, and improve air quality. It contains strategies to help Metro Vancouver and member municipalities prepare for, and mitigate risks from, climate change. In addition, municipal official community plans include provincially mandated greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s Project Definition Report for the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project anticipates lower idling‐related greenhouse gas emissions, but contains no information related to the potential greenhouse gas emissions that will result from the project as a whole, which may be significant. The Project Definition Report omits any mention of climate change.

Through the Province of British Columbia’s environmental assessment review process thus far, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has committed to an evaluation of potential project‐related changes in greenhouse gas emissions, but only in response to the demands of stakeholders. With respect to climate change specifically, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has indicated it will examine how climate change may impact its project, but will not consider the potential contribution of the project to climate change.

The potential for this project to increase greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to climate change is of concern given the commitments of local, provincial, and federal governments to address climate change impacts. Minimal information is provided on the potential long‐term significant adverse environmental effects related to greenhouse gas emissions and therefore, this project requires a more thorough evaluation on these impacts.

3. Habitat

The Fraser River estuary is the single most important area of aquatic bird and raptor habitat in British Columbia. The intertidal marshes found in the estuary provide critical rearing areas for juvenile salmon. Metro Vancouver has a legislative responsibility to consider the regional and cumulative impacts of projects on the region’s ecology.

In addition, the current George Massey tunnel and the proposed new bridge bisect Metro Vancouver’s Deas Island Regional Park, having a direct impact on habitat for which Metro Vancouver is the public steward.

A federal environmental review would, we hope, involve a more comprehensive and complete look at the Fraser River estuary than the current provincial environmental review entails. The public concerns related to the potential significant adverse environmental effects on the Fraser River and the Park, in our opinion, necessitate a federal environmental review.

Metro Vancouver believes that the concerns raised in this letter highlight the potential for significant adverse environmental effects and, in Metro Vancouver’s view, provide a compelling case for a federal environmental review. Metro Vancouver therefore respectfully requests you use your discretion, pursuant to section 14(2) of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012, to order a federal environmental assessment of the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project. Metro Vancouver requests, as well, that you consider referring the federal environmental assessment to a review panel on which key stakeholder groups, including Metro Vancouver itself, would have an opportunity to participate.

Thank you for your consideration of these requests.

Yours truly,

Greg Moore

Chair, Metro Vancouver Board

cc: The Honourable Mary Polak, BC Minister of Environment

The Honourable Todd Stone, BC Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure

=========================

UPDATE to which should be added

From: Eliza Olson [*******]
Sent: Saturday, April 02, 2016 3:23 PM
To:icentre@metrovancouver.org‘ <icentre@metrovancouver.org>
Cc:ec.ministre-minister.ec@canada.ca‘ <ec.ministre-minister.ec@canada.ca>
Subject: Attention: Greg Moore, letter to Hon. Min. McKenna

 

Greg Moore, Chair Metro Vancouver Board,

 

Congratulations on a very insightful letter sent to the Hon. Catherine McKenna, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, requesting a Federal Environmental Assessment of the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project.

 

Under Section 3 Habitat, there is no mention of the potential impact of the replacement of the tunnel on the Fraser Delta Ramsar Site, No. 243, specifically the South Arm Marsh.

 

In 2012, the Fraser Delta Ramsar site was proclaimed.  This is an international designation bestowed upon wetlands of international importance at the request of the originating country. This includes all levels of government within that country.  In the case of the Fraser Delta Ramsar Site, the request began with the Corporation of Delta, then Metro Vancouver, the BC Government and finally the Federal Government.

 

I am bringing this to you attention because it appears that since the great celebration that took place in 2012 that the moral obligations that go with asking and accepting the Ramsar designation of the Fraser River Delta as a “wetland of international importance” appears to be forgotten.

 

Failure to honour our international obligations regarding the Fraser Delta Ramsar Site No. 243, regardless how unintended, can bring dishonour to all levels of government.

 

The following wetland areas included in the Fraser Delta Ramsar Site No. 243, are Alaksen, Burns Bog, Boundary Bay, Serpentine, South Arm Marsh and Sturgeon Bank.

 

I am sure that this was not the intention of your letter. I am bringing this to your attention as a humble servant.

 

Sincerely,

 

Eliza Olson, LLD., B.Ed

President

 

Burns Bog Conservation Society

 

www.burnsbog.org

 

Did you know that an area of peatland the size of a soccer field stores the equivalent of CO2 that your car produces going around the world 3 times? Help us save our peatlands. Give today. www.burnsbog.org

Written by Stephen Rees

April 1, 2016 at 3:30 pm

Posted in Transportation

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