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Port opponents angry over log removal
Update (Thursday, Sept. 5 at 5:17 p.m.) – Port Metro Vancouver began removing logs earlier today. Two members of CAPE were on hand to witness the log removal. An interview involving those people appears above.
Today, Port Metro Vancouver issued a fact sheet regarding the project:
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Naturalists, bird lovers, and port opponents gathered on Tuesday morning at the bottom of 64th Street in Boundary Bay to protest what they say is an unnecessary and harmful removal of logs from the salt marshes.
About 40 people gathered holding signs reading "leave well enough alone" and urged Port Metro Vancouver to abandon its "habitat banking" program which involves removing saw-cut logs which have gathered along Boundary Bay's shores over the years.
"We plan to make it our business to be down on the dike every day – not all us, but just some of us down there taking a walk and a look," said Cliff Caprani, chair of Citizens Against Port Expansion. "We need our people to be the eyes and ears of what's going on and then when something significant happens, when the caterpillar vehicles start trundling in there we need to be back there in quantity and begin to make ourselves known and our protest felt."
Caprani said the Port is trying to make the project seem altruistic and for the good of the neighbourhood but in reality will provide environmental mitigation credits which they can use to "trash the area" around Roberts Bank during Terminal 2 construction.
In a YouTube video created by Caprani he claims that biologists and experts now agree that the logs are part of the natural landscape, quoting professor Charles Simenstad from the University of Washington who said, "wood is good."
Simenstad said that, "Large wood on beaches is advantageous from a variety of perspectives, be it stability of beach sediments and vegetation or its ecological role in supporting fish and wildlife, either directly or indirectly."
But Gord Ruffo, manager of the Port's habitat banking program, said he's concerned people have some misconceptions on the benefits of wood.
"They've done some research and said, well wood is good, if you look at some of the literature they've handed out," he said.
Some wood is good, said Ruffo referring to naturally occurring trees, but that doesn't apply to all of the wood found in Boundary Bay. He said the high density of anthropogenic logs – wood arriving from a human source – is suppressing the natural growth of the salt marshes.
"Our program is to remove those logs and let the salt marsh revegetate, so it is truly a salt marsh restoration project," said Ruffo. "It's a good thing. It seems that some of the people have some misinformation that all wood is good. Well, that's not true."
The provincial ministry of forests, lands, and natural resource operations has identified the creosote logs that will be removed, and will leave other logs behind. The Port will also be installing snags, which are logs that provide habitat for raptors to perch on and search for food.
Ruffo said the habitat banking program is part of the salt marsh restoration project which will earn the Port credits in the form of square meters of habitat created that could be used to offset future Port infrastructure development. But he said this program is not linked to Terminal 2.
That explanation isn't satisfying opponents, many of who only found out about the program via the Corporation of Delta website.
"Once again Port Metro Vancouver has decided to start a project in Delta without bothering to inform the public or provide opportunity for comment or input," said Roger Emsley, executive director of the community group Against Port Expansion, adding that it displays arrogance and disregard for the communities in which the Port operates.
In an open letter to Port Metro CEO Robin Silvester, Emsley calls for a halt to the project and immediate consultation with environmental groups and agencies, bird experts, scientists, salt marsh experts, and public input.
Emsley argues that the act of removing the logs will cause habitat damage and soil compaction.
"The mammals that are an important winter food source will be gone and so next winter they will no longer be there," he said. "And perhaps the abundant wildlife that we see today – such as the snowy owls – will never return."
Anne Murray, an author of several naturalist books and a bird expert, also wrote an open letter to Robin Silvester, calling on him to stop "habitat destruction" and produce a scientifically defensible study.
"The logs provide shelter for rodents which in turn become food for birds of prey, including Northern Harrier, Short-eared Owl, and Rough-legged and Red-tailed Hawks," she said. "Is the Port planning to destroy similar old field habitat on Roberts Bank, at the mouth of the Fraser River?"
Murray said there may be an argument for thinning the number of logs in the salt marshes but would require an environmental study to be completed beforehand.
Boundary Bay is in the province's Wildlife Management Area and part of the Ramsar designation as an international wetland of significance.