Stephen Rees's blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘SFPR


St Mungo Cannery site

St Mungo Cannery site - photo by Stephen Rees

Burns Bog Conservation Society is non-profit environmental organization working to conserve and protect Burns Bog, a globally-unique ecological wonder in Delta, British Columbia.

For Immediate Release:


Wednesday, November 24, 2010 – Delta, B.C. – The Burns Bog Conservation Society announced today that it has delivered a statement of claim to Federal court office. The Society claims that the Federal Government has violated the conservation covenant to protect Burns Bog.

“The construction of the South Fraser Perimeter Road will have a significant impact to the health and well being of residents, plants and animals alike,” said Eliza Olson, President, Burns Bog Conservation Society. “Our Governments have failed to conduct a thorough and credible analysis of the environmental impact of paving a highway through Burns Bog, over valuable farmland, and along the Fraser River.”

The freeway will cause irreparable harm to critical habitats of the Fraser delta including the bog, farmland, and the forests and wetlands located in Surrey and North Delta. As such, Burns Bog Conservation Society, with a grant from West Coast Environmental Law, has hired Vancouver lawyer Jay Straith to advocate on their behalf.

“The governments have failed to honour their commitment to protect Burns Bog under a Conservation Covenant and Management Plan signed by the Governments of Canada and British Columbia,  Metro Vancouver, and the Corporation of Delta,” said lawyer Jay Straith. “They must be held accountable for their actions and negligence.”

Further, the Federal Government has violated public trust, and ignored their fiduciary duty to protect the environment, by carrying out the development of the South Fraser Perimeter Road. The development contravenes the laws outlined in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the Federal Species at Risk Act in the following ways:

  • Fails to ensure that the Federal Environmental Assessment of the South Fraser Perimeter Road was considered in a careful and precautionary manner, to avoid adverse environmental effects
  • Fails to disclose the use of Federal lands for the purpose of enabling the project to be carried out
  • Fails to protect endangered species such as the Pacific Water Shrew
  • Fails to meet the legal requirement of assessing the overall cumulative effects of the South Fraser Perimeter Road, in combination with related Gateway Projects such as the Delta Port expansion and Golden Ears Bridge.

It’s not too late for our governments to do the right thing.


For more information, please contact:

Eliza Olson

President of the Burns Bog Conservation Society


info (at)

Alex Fraser Bridge

The SFPR will run along the south bank of the Fraser. The St Mungo cannery site is below the south pier. - Stephen Rees photo

Written by Stephen Rees

November 24, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Posted in Gateway

Tagged with ,

On the road to Richmond

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Delta Optimist

Farms not freeways poster on SFPR

Farms not freeways poster on SFPR

Harold Steves, a longtime Richmond councillor and former NDP MLA, was in Delta this week to sound the alarm bells over the loss of farmland to various development projects. He says Delta could end up looking like Richmond in 20 years.

Harold is, of course, the last farmer in West Richmond – and a local councillor. He was also one of the founders of the Agricultural Land Reserve, created in the wake of the wave of development that was allowed to sweep away all the farms in that area. The consensus in the region was that Richmond was not a suitable place for development, being low lying, and thus susceptible to flooding, but also very high quality and productive farm land. But developers and land owners did not agree, and there was at that time no effective measure to prevent a council determined to allow a lot of very profitable land use change to take place.

The provincial government loves to boast of how green it is – and welcomes every photo op with a hybrid bus, or a run of the river power developer. But its actions are wholly the opposite. While the ALR is still on the books, the Commission which was set up to ensure the policies were effective has been gutted. The deal with the Tsawassen First Nation, and the Gateway program to build the South Fraser Perimeter Road both require large amounts of the best farmland in Delta – and so they are being loaded with sand right now. The railway sidings at Deltaport are also being expanded. The port, of course is actually reporting declining traffic but no matter. Any more than anyone is paying attention to the failure of the US to pull itself out of recession  – or the huge number of container ships idled and laid up around the world.

The conversion of agricultural land to development is one of the easiest ways to make money quickly. Sale of the top soil – for which there seems to be plenty of demand – provides a quick positive cash flow. And the change in land use designation – a mere stroke of the pen – has a dramatic effect on land value. There is quite a lot of land around that needs to be redeveloped – most of the Fraser River frontage on the North Arm in Vancouver, for instance. Lots of former sites previously used as gas stations. Such “brownfield” developments are problematic and quite expensive. So despite the strategy of building a compact urban region – which is by far the most economical from nearly every other perspective – gets trampled by the greed of the developers. “Me first and the gimme gimmes”. All of whom support the BC Liberal Party generously and are paid back handsomely. We pay for the roads and other utilities that make the developments work, and we also pay in our Medical Services Premiums as heart disease, obesity and diabetes continue to take their toll on a sedentary, single occupant vehicle population. As well as the casualties from vehicle collisions on the roads, of course.

There are lots of reasons to oppose the development of Delta – and many local residents are vocal in their opposition. Not that the BC Liberals are listening, which is why they lost the seat in Delta South, admittedly by a very tight margin. But the argument cannot be won by logic or reason when money shouts so loudly, and politicians say one thing and do the opposite. But once the crunch hits – and food costs in BC start to spiral – it will be too late. Because this land will not be brought back into food  production – any more than West Richmond will be. It is the one way entropy of development akin to the burning of the rain forest. The economy is the subsidiary of the environment, not the other way round. And our primary needs are clean air, clean water and food. They all come from natural resources – and the worse job that we do looking after them, the more it costs to clean up the consequences. And those costs are not borne by developers. They are “externalities” which we all pay. And which this government is determined will be ignored for now. So we pay later.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 29, 2010 at 10:52 am

The real impact of the SFPR

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Mark Hume in the Globe and Mail picks up the story released yesterday by Donna Passmore

Province warned Gateway project would hurt wildlife


May 8, 2009

VANCOUVER — Before it began construction of the controversial Gateway transportation project, the provincial government was warned by its own environmental experts that the development could cause “permanent and irreversible impact to wildlife and ecosystems.”

According to documents obtained under Freedom of Information requests and released yesterday by a group opposed to the project, the government ignored the advice of Ministry of Environment scientists and went ahead with the highway, making only modest changes to construction plans.

“I don’t think they addressed the concerns raised by their own scientists in any meaningful way,” Donna Passmore of the Gateway 40 Citizens Network said.

By dint of sheer persistence, much of correspondence between the provincial and federal agencies reveals that the proponent (the Ministry of Covering BC in Concrete) was well aware that the South Fraser Perimeter Road would be an environmental disaster and that the proposed mitigation was useless. Yet the BC Liberal government pressed on ahead anyway. Even rushing to get pre-load started before contracts were signed in order to claim “victory” before the election.

Environmentalists and activists have been saying that the SFPR  did not meet even the present government’s weakened standards. Scientists raised serious objections. So did the people impacted by the project. The misrepresentations of the facts by Minister Kevin Falcon and Premier Gordon Campbell have continued – with both of them claiming that there were “extensive environmental reviews”. Of course what they did not say was that the results of those reviews were ignored and they hoped that if they were buried, no-one would have the patience to dig them up again. Well Donna has – and her timing with this release could not have been better.

Delta South has looked like a very unsafe seat for some time. The Delta hospital closure was just the first of a series of decisions unpopular with residents. The Tsawassen treaty, the power lines, the port expansion and the SFPR all made people in Delta feel they were being ignored and dumped on. The emergence of a popular local politician – Vicki Huntington – to run as an independent in what has been a easily held Liberal stroghold showed how much contempt the party has for its own supporters. The gamble was that the locals would not vote NDP – but that did not mean they will not vote against the government.

Wally Oppal was handed the poison chalice. He had a safe seat in Vancouver but was persuaded to run in his home riding. Maybe he has just had enough of politics  and is seeking this way as earning an honourable retirement – taking the bullet for his party. 

I would like to think that this event will have wider resonance. Because the trashing of environmental protection has been a hallmark of this government. They started – under Minister Falcon in his previous job – with gutting the regulations. Then they also cut the responsible ministry by 50% – and eliminated the positions that were supposed to protecting us and our environment. And then they started the swathe of projects – the Gateway, the IPPs and all the rest – that are now comprehensively trashing “the best place on earth”. And every time anyone objected they learned that objection was useless. All the time the same Minister claimed a thorough environmental process was followed. He knew that was not true – and now we have the evidence. He was lying. Not spin, not half truth but deliberate deceit. The BC Liberals are saying that they deserve to continue in government because they can be trusted. We know they do not keep promises – BC Rail proved that. We know now for certain they are liars. They have managed to dodge the legal consequences of BC Rail by prolonging the court case for as long as possible. Five years and counting. But they cannot now dodge the judgement of the ballot box. If we re-elect the Liberals we only have ourselves to blame. 

(By the way if you would like six large pdf files of documents I will be happy to forward them to you.)

Written by Stephen Rees

May 8, 2009 at 8:31 am

Posted in Environment, politics

Tagged with

Surrey mayor unveils radical economic development plan

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Vancouver Sun

What Dianne Watts has done is broken ranks. She has declared that Bridgeview and Surrey Central will be areas where major new projects won’t have to pay property taxes for three years. The Sun mostly quotes people who think this is a good idea. Only Derek Corrigan of Burnaby thinks it might not be so smart:

…Surrey might get a temporary advantage, but the move will pit municipalities against one another. He said his city already has some of the lowest development cost charges and has no plans to cut or defer them.

“We’ve been a popular place for development so we’re not in a position where we’re trying to encourage developers in what we see is a race to the bottom. It’s very discouraging,” he said.

Indeed, I could not have put it better myself. I have been in BC since 1994 and one of the first things they told me about when I got here was that municipalities would not try to take an advantage by offering this kind of deal to industry. Industrial development is the only land use that pays more in taxes than it costs in municipal services. Other kinds of development – especially residential – cost more to service than they bring in in new taxes. This kind of “beggar my neighbour” policy has been generally avoided. Because in the long run, no municipality gains from this approach – the developers simply pit the municipalities against each other. Moreover, once this competition starts there is nothing to stop a business packing up and leaving once its tax concessions run out and get them from some other municipality.  And there are plenty of places where that has happened. Mostly to the south of here.

Bridgeview is also the community where houses are being torn down to make way for the South Fraser Perimeter Road. As Bernadette “No Trucking Freeway” Keenan has noticed, this area really does not see any traffic congestion in the afternoon peak – usually the busiest time of day for most roads in the region.

Her comments can be heard at 2 minutes in to this video.

But of course the SFPR is not about traffic – or the needs of the truckers to get to the port – it is about turning residential land into industrial land. Just that zoning change will make money – as it has along the same route through North Delta, where the prize is even bigger since even more money  can be made if the land was formerly protected bog or farmland.

What Mayor Watts is tacitly admitting is that in these tough economic times, even ripping down houses and building a new four lane road is not enough to attract business. The premise of the SFPR is that growth is always good – and that land prices will always rise. But that ceased to be true around the middle of last year in this region – and about 18 months earlier than that in the US. Indeed, it is hard now to find financing for almost any kind of development since the people who used to fund this sort of thing are now bankrupt – or left holding all sorts of unpriceable paper “assets” and are hoping for yet more bailout funds. The first tranche of which has already been squandered by the  bankers on their own bonuses.

For the life of me I cannot understand why the Sun thinks it should be a business booster. There are plenty of people around like Maureen Enser who will do that. Surely the role of a newspaper should be to ask questions and try to look behind the smoke and mirrors? The Sun of course is not really a newspaper at all. You have to look elsewhere for examples of real journalistic standards. This story is, sadly, typical of their uncritical view “what benefits a business must be good for all of us” – which most of us with some experience of the world know is far from true.

“People who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it” George Santayana

It is a sad day for Surrey – and the region as a whole – that we all now face yet another first hand learning experience that we could easily have avoided.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 12, 2009 at 9:22 pm

Freeway fight escalates as North Surrey house falls

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A Guest Post from Carmen at

The fight against Gateway is far from over…communities are
(finally!) recognizing their common interest in stopping this
project, and are supporting each other. With this and the collapse of funding, it is highly possible that this freeway-building insanity may be stopped.

Brian Lewis really captured it in today’s Province

And here is some video from ShawTV (segment starts 4 minutes in):

Attached is our press release …thank you for following this mportant story as it continues to unfold!

SURREY – On Saturday morning, after a 5 day/24 hour blockade encampment, concerned citizens witnessed the demolition of the last house standing in the way of the proposed South Fraser Freeway in Surrey’s Bridgeview neighbourhood.

This working family neighbourhood is the first targeted by the Gateway, Project, forcing many residents with deep roots in the community to leave. The demolition equipment was escorted through a back entrance to the property under guard of private security hired by the Ministry of Transportation.

“This freeway is threatening to destroy communities all along the river, and outdated freeway projects like this are cooking our planet,” said Tom Jaugelis, a North Surrey resident and spokesperson for the group. “Instead of spending billions on the Gateway project, we should be investing in green jobs like the public transit that Surrey needs right now.” The Livable Region Coalition estimates that the Gateway project would increase carbon emissions from cars and trucks by 30%.

Ministry officials plan to lay pre-load sand throughout the neighbourhood so the boggy area will be suitable for paving in about three years. Although the government has spent about $100 million expropriating properties and dumping sand, the project design has not been finalized and no builder has been selected.

“Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon wants to spend billions putting a useless freeway next to our school that will cut us off from the river, beach, and our fishing dock.” Said Bernadette Keenan, who sits on the Board of the Bridgeview Community Association. “Our community has a different vision for North Surrey. This is going to be a mixed-use waterfront community, not an industrial wasteland beside a freeway. We are continuing to fight for our community.”

Jaugelis added, “We have been getting more and more support from communities all along the proposed freeway route, people from one end to the other have been coming by with encouragement, hot chocolate and snacks.We will be there to support them when Falcon tries to trash their communities. This is just the beginning.”

Written by Stephen Rees

March 9, 2009 at 2:57 pm

Posted in Gateway

Tagged with

A Bit of History of the ALC Approval of the SFPR

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The following is being circulated by email by Donna Passmore. Since I have been commenting on this decision here and many of you are not on her email list, I am copying the whole thing here as there is nowhere esle on the web where you can find this at present

In the days of Social Credit we actually had Socred appointed Agricultural and Commissions that stood up for the ALR and opposed government plans to allow farmland to be developed. Ian Payton refused to remove Terra Nova from the ALR and the Commission was overruled by the government but the integrity of the Commission was unquestioned.

The most alarming aspect of this approval is the Land Commission’s reasoning for doing so.

First, allowing the use of agricultural lands “in deference to the provincial benefits of improved transportation” is not the role of the Land Commission. The role of the ALC is to preserve farmland.

Second, their statements justifying the decision are unbelievably Orwellian. There can never be “substantial enhancements to agriculture” when substantial amounts of farmland are lost. It is true there were “45 years of planning and decision making by national, provincial, regional, and local levels of government.” The reason it took 45 years is because most of those levels of government were opposed to the project and prevented it from happening.

WAC Bennett initiated the Roberts Bank Superport proposal in the 1960’s. The regional government, the Lower Mainland Regional Planning Board (now Metro Vancouver), refused to allow the development onto farmland.  Bennett disbanded the board and took away their zoning powers. The top scientists for the BC Fish and Wildlife Branch and Environment Canada published a booklet on why the Delta farmlands should never be developed and should be preserved for the Pacific Flyway. At the same time an international development company, Western Realty, was attempting to buy up as much land in Richmondand Delta as possible to cash in on the expected bonanza. Along with Richmond Council’s rezoning of 12,000 acres of farmland in the 1960’s these were the main reasons the Agricultural Land Reserve was established in 1973.

The Commission states that “the need for the SFPR can be traced back to decisions in the 1960’s to build a port at Robert’s Bank” but ignores the fact that the commission itself was established in 1973 to stop the expansion of the port onto farmland at Robert’s Bank.

Metro Vancouver and subsequent local councils in Delta have consistently opposed development of farmland in Delta ever since.  During that entire time local and regional government, and until recently the provincial government, were opposed to expanding the Robert’s Bank port onto farmland.

Nowhere in the commission’s judgement have they discussed the effect of the compounded collective loss of about 1,000 acres of farmland due to the SFPR, TFN development, railyard development and Delta Port expansion onto farmland for container storage. Loss of critical mass speeds up urban sprawl. It accelerates crop loss by concentrating the migratory waterfowl onto the smaller area that remains, and fewer farms means that farm services move further afield. That affects the survival of all of the farms that are left.

The BC Ministry of Agriculture states that we need to find an additional 200,000 acres (90,000 ha) of irrigated farmland in this region by 2025. Irrigation and drainage will be ssential but destroying farmland to get it cannot be justified. If we are to have food security and agricultural sustainability we should be adding land to our farmland inventory in the region not losing it. There are properties in Delta that could be acquired and rehabilitated for agriculture. The Land Commission should be demanding the addition of land to the ALR acre for acre to make up for the loss of 1,000 acres. The more land we retain the more land we can irrigate in the future.

Conditional approval of the highway by the Land Commission does not guarantee the money will be spent to make the improvements or that it will work. In Richmond, Highway 91 cuts a large swath through farmland in east Richmond and is the main reason $10 million worth of drainage and irrigation improvements are needed. The federal governments answer (under the Liberals) was to provide the funds for agriculture by taking 136 acres of the Garden City Lands bog out of the AlR for residential development. Trees in another 300 acres of the Garden City Lands bog are dying because Highway 91 and other roads around the perimeter of the bog have affected the hydrology and the normal rise and fall of the water table.

There are alternatives to the SFPR. Highway 10 has recently been widened, which should meet our immediate needs. Some container transport can be accomodated by container ferries to Richmond and Surrey. If an inland port were established at Ashcroft where the two national railroads meet, the SFPR and Delta Port expansion would not be necessary. Rail is also one of the answers to curbing global warming caused by trucks and to rising fuel costs as oil reserves decline.

Once development of an area begins it is difficult to stop. By giving conditional approval to the SFPR land speculators will be encouraged that their time will come. The Land Commission has inadvertently guaranteed that there will be increased pressures on Delta farmland and further attempts to make incursions into the ALR in Delta in the future.

Harold Steves
Founding Director
Farmland Defence League of BC

Written by Stephen Rees

December 11, 2008 at 8:03 am

Province authorizes South Fraser road construction before land commission ruling

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Vancouver Sun

Two private land owners are going to proceed with work on the SFPR, with the Province’s encouragement and a promise to reimburse them. The SFPR cannot be built until the Agricultural Land Commission rules on the future of up to 90 hectares of land.This was part of the “Sophie’s Choice” – either Burns Bog or agricultural land had to be taken for the road to follow the south bank of the Fraser. Of course, if it really was about connecting Deltaport to Highway #1 as the proponent claimed, there was a better route. That was never considered. The SFPR is less about transport and much more about changing land use – a process that makes millions by a stroke of the pen. The cost, of course, is far more than money.

“We’ve been fighting this, knowing the fix is in from the beginning,” protested Harold Steves, a veteran Richmond farmer and city councillor who heads Metro Vancouver’s agriculture committee.

“It doesn’t say much for the land commission at all. Effectively, government is able to ignore the commission and do as it pleases.”

Well, until the spring of next year anyway.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 4, 2008 at 9:11 am