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Port Metro Vancouver says Terminal 2 review panel won't impact schedule

Environmental groups are concerned that the proposed Roberts Bank Terminal 2 expansion will negatively impact shorebirds like the Western Sandpiper and Dunlin (pictured). - File photo
Environmental groups are concerned that the proposed Roberts Bank Terminal 2 expansion will negatively impact shorebirds like the Western Sandpiper and Dunlin (pictured).
— image credit: File photo

The extra step in the environmental assessment for Deltaport Terminal 2 in Roberts Bank won't impact Port Metro Vancouver's schedule according to the port authority.

Federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced last week that the project would be referred to a review panel under new, stricter environmental regulations created in the 2012 Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) by the Harper government.

The timeline set by Aglukkaq means it will be a minimum of two years from the time the assessment begins before the port receives approval to add another deepsea terminal off Roberts Bank. Those two years could drag on even longer if the review panel decides it needs more information than has been provided by the port.

Cliff Stewart, vice president for infrastructure delivery at Port Metro Vancouver, said prior to that phase the port has to release its own environmental impact statement, which won't be completed until late 2014 or early 2015.

But Stewart said they always anticipated the completion of the environmental process by the summer of 2017 or 2018.

"The formal timelines are new under CEAA 2012 but when we had looked at a range of other large projects in the last decade in Western-Northern Canada it seemed as though it was about four years in total," he said.

The timeline for the review panel to be established in pre-panel phase is 150 days from the date of referral of the project up to the establishment of the panel. Then the panel has 430 days to submit its report, after which Aglukkaq is allowing another 150 days to make a decision statement.

Stewart said that the changes to the CEAA adds an extra stage to the process but the fundamentals haven't changed.

"The work is really all the same in terms of the proponent and the various regulatory departments, people like DFO (Department of Fisheries and Oceans) and Canadian Wildlife Service and Transport Canada and so on," he said. "The difference is that once the proponent and all of those groups have done all of their work then it goes to the next step, which is that it's reviewed by an independent panel."

Roger Emsley, a member of the group Against Port Expansion and the Port Community Liaison Committee, said an independent review panel is the only way the project can receive a proper assessment.

Emsley said the port will now be required to conduct a proper study on the biofilm covering rocks on the shore of Roberts Bank which sustains local seabird populations. He said the Roberts Bank ecosystem, which is within the Fraser River Estuary, is one of the top 10 shorebird sites in the world.

"They are ducking key issues on this biofilm, and as we well know if that biofilm gets impacted we are going to see population level declines, if not the outright destruction, of the Western Sandpiper population."

Emsley said he fully expects government agencies to instruct the port to conduct more environmental studies long before it ever reaches a review panel.

Information on Terminal 2 and the environmental assessment process is available on the Canadian Environmental Assessment Registry website, reference number 80054.

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