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

with 7 comments

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

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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

Town Hall on SFPR at the North Delta Firehall

with 8 comments

UPDATED October 28 with link to Eric’s speech

I was privileged to be invited to be an “expert” at a meeting last night. My assigned subject was the lack of economic rationale for the Gateway in general and the SFPR in particular. But by the time my turn came to speak both Joe Foy of the Wilderness Committee and Don Hunt of the Sunbury Residents Association had pretty much covered that ground. The Panama Canal, the North West Passage and Prince Rupert had all been mentioned.

I did start with the decline in trade from China, which has already created spare capacity at other Pacific Coast ports. But the point I think I missed is the one about railways. The SFPR is anchored on the notion that ii is somehow necessary to truck containers from Deltaport to Port Kells. But actually the CP and CNR both run double stack container trains directly from Deltaport to their shared mainlines across the Rockies. The containers that leave the port on trucks are for local distribution and mostly the goods they carry get unloaded at various warehouses and the sorted and loaded back into other containers and trailers for delivery to retail stores. I have noticed increasing numbers of CN trucks on the roads around the region, and that is because CN is increasingly a vertically integrated logistics company. I suspect that it may help the railways reduce the number of trains on the Deltaport line – which is mostly single track and runs though a lot of level crossings in Langley. The coal traffic through Deltaport is no longer solely a Canadian affair as both BNSF and UP have been running coal trains to the Roberts Bank terminal.

Guy Gentner, the organiser of the meeting, is an advocate of short sea shipping. He points out, quite correctly, the none of the alternatives like this were properly examined yet the EA certificate was issued anyway. He had a copy of a report to the Port of Vancouver which examined this subject a few years ago and found that it would be cheaper than trucks. Which is quite credible, given the number of containers that could be moved on a barge. But it still bothers me that double handling containers on and off a barge just to put them back on a train – for example at Surrey Fraser Docks – must still cost more than putting them directly onto trains at Deltaport. A few years ago there was considerable congestion in the railyard there, but that is certainly not the case now.

CN Double Stack container train at Roberts Bank October 5, 2008

CN Double Stack container train at Roberts Bank October 5, 2008

Charlie Wyse the NDP MLA for Cariboo South was in the audience and he talked about the availability of land in his constituency that lies between the CP and CN main lines and would be a much better place to store containers than farmland in Delta. It is also happens to be well located for containers from Prince Rupert as well. Though again I am not sure that containers need to be stored quite so much, as the declining dollar means exports to China and other Asian destinations are more competitive. Although typically Canadian exports to these destinations are overwhelmingly bulk commodities that are uneconomic to containerise, US ports are reporting increasing flows of loaded export containers.

Eliza Olson was, as usual, highly persuasive about the importance of Burns Bog – and the issue of the the Covenant which protects the bog and the ability of Delta Corporation to use this as a legal block to port development is likely to continue. Unfortunately the finely nuanced details of this procedure is not the sort of thing that gets much discussion at this sort of meeting, but the number of Delta Councillors present, and the imminence of local elections, suggests to me that it will continue be a very significant issue there.

Eric Doherty was quiet and measured – but dealt with the subject of P3s with considerable humour. The complexity of these deals, the shakiness of many of the institutions that promote them and the continuing credit squeeze all point to the conclusion that the Gateway is anything but a done deal. Of course while this meeting was assembling Gordon Campbell was making his announcement which includes accelerating unnamed infrastructure projects. While a number of private sector developments under construction have been halted (the developers say “temporarily”) I do not have any sense that this is yet freeing up a lot of capacity. I am still struck by the amount of imported labour and expertise that is necessary for projects that include major civil engineering works, and I am skeptical that there is much of a local multiplier if most of the money spent on bridges and tunnels actually gets sent abroad. I tend to agree with Carole James that this announcement was slapped together hastily and it shows.

The star of the evening was Corky Evans, who is not running in the next provincial election, and was therefore even more unconstrained than usual. He was at the same time funny and rabble rousing. He picked up the point about the SFPR being more about land development than transportation. There are, he said, two easy ways for capitalists to make money. “1. Add sugar 2. Change zoning” The good thing about the second one is that you do not have to even buy sugar. “Paving over what we need [to grow food] to eat is whacko”. He farms on the side of a hill and on thick sticky clay. Farmers in Delta have flat land and the best soil in Canada. But once this is paved over for container storage and big box stores it will be lost forever. He praised Guy Gentner for standing up against the Tsawassen land deal – and defying party discipline to do so. He also pointed out that the only other way to make a ninefold return quickly on invested capital is dealing heroin. And there is a strong similarity in the morals of drug dealers and property speculators.

Guy Gentner expanded on this theme, and detailed the activities of a “bunch of lawyers” who set up a company called (appropriately enough) Quick Assets. They have been active along the Sea to Sky and the SFPR purchasing land along the corridor before the final route determination. One 20 acre parcel they bought for $1.7m (an otherwise worthless piece of land due to soil contamination) which was later sold for $3.7m. He also noted that the project has not yet started expropriation but is willing to buy properties along the route that are offered. But the prices the project will pay are well below comparable properties in other parts of the region. That is because the route of the SFPR has been generally indicated for over 20 years and that has had a depressing effect on prices even before the present credit crunch. For people without mortgages accepting these offers now seems preferable to waiting longer in a declining market, but a group of owners whose homes are threatened are gathering together to try and present a united front.

The arrogance of the BC Liberals appears to be cracking. The Premier has now recalled the legislature – only a few weeks after cancelling the fall session becuase there was “nothing to talk about” and MLAs were better occupied in their constituencies. I do think this is going to be an interesting session.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 23, 2008 at 7:36 am

Farmers voice concerns over highway project

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Country Life in BC

Donna Passmore tells me these web pages do not have a long life, so I am copying the entire story below

The point being that the Province gave itself permission through the EA process to build a road before the alignment was known. For me this removes any credibility that the BC EA process has. It is a transparent sham and is simply a way to appear to care about the environment when in fact the opposite is true.

DELTA – An irrigation system might be the best thing to come out of a major highway project planned for Delta, but local farmers want to make sure that it gets built.

That was the upshot of a consultation session the province’s Agricultural Land Commission hosted for the agricultural community in Delta regarding the impact of the South Fraser Perimeter Road that is being planned as part of the province’s ambitious Gateway project.

Gateway will develop infrastructure to facilitate the movement of goods through the Lower Mainland, increasing local highway capacity and potentially freeing up space on commuter routes. Government estimates have tagged the multi-year project at approximately $3 billion.

The project will require up to 260 acres of farmland, a fact that has drawn sharp criticism from both farmers and farmland advocates.

Delta is on track to lose more than 1,000 acres of farm land over the coming years, and the scale of the Gateway project – and the fact government didn’t announce the final routing until this past summer – has fuelled mistrust of the government’s plans.

“We’ve flipped back and forth and we’re right back where we started,” said Jack Bates, former chair of the Delta Farmers’ Institute who oversaw the institute’s dialogue on the project for four years. The current route of the road, which winds around the north side of Burns Bog, was the institute’s second choice for a route. DFI supported the project from the start, Bates said, but it originally favoured an alignment south of the bog. He told the commission that opposition by residents in East Ladner nixed that option, while advocates of the bog pushed for an alignment that effectively returned the route to its original alignment. The prospect of an irrigation system that’s estimated to cost $18 million is welcome, but Bates noted that there’s no requirement that it actually be built. Some expressed fears that it could be sacrificed if the government eventually decided it couldn’t afford it.

“There’s no guarantee it will be built,” Bates told panel members. “Make sure this thing is built, at any cost, after the road is built.”

Robert Butler, administrator of the DFI, was equally emphatic.

He told the panel the DFI originally took a co-operative approach because it believed that if the road was going to happen, it would be best to find a route that worked for all concerned.
That’s not quite how it’s worked out.

“To say we’re unhappy with this would be an understatement,” Butler said, describing the current plans are effectively expropriation without appropriate compensation to the farming community.
“It is our opinion that the proponent’s application should be set aside until all the ag[ricultural] enhancement strategies are known,” he said.

Butler also urged full disclosure regarding the sale of any lands deemed surplus to the project.
The feedback was a surprise to many members of the commission’s panel, but commission chair Erik Karlsen expressed sympathy for the farmers’ plight noting that the commission had been equally hobbled by Victoria’s lack of disclosure regarding the project.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 22, 2008 at 10:37 am

Posted in Environment

Tagged with

The Road and The Bog

with one comment

The following is an open letter sent by Don Hunt of the Sunbury Neighborhood Association spelling out, chapter and verse, the effects of the SFPR on Burns Bog

Mayor and Council

Corporation of Delta

Dear Mayor and Council,

I recently read a newspaper article where George Harvie was quoted as saying that the SFPR would not impact the Partnership lands.

Where is he getting his information?

Environment Canada, Transport Canada, The Environmental Stewardship Division of British Columbia, and the Burns Bog Scientific Advisory Panel all say that it will, and that the damage cannot be mitigated.

The SFPR Environmental Application even admits that;

“In relation to the ecological boundaries of Burns Bog, the Ministry of Transportation proposes to construct portions of SFPR on land that is part of the bog and directly connected to the land within the conservation area.” (Burns bog discussion paper, Pg 2, Paragraph 3).

“Removal of peat-producing vegetation or vegetation at the bog margin that acts as a buffer between central bog communities and surrounding terrestrial ecosystems would have implications not only for the immediately affected vegetation but for the entire ecosystem.” (SFPR Environmental Application; Burns Bog Discussion Paper).

“…the SFPR is expected to cause footprint impacts to 28.79 ha of land in zones required for, or supporting, the viability of Burns Bog.” “…5.6 ha of the affected land with ecological values is in zone 1 or in the water mound and required for Burns Bog viability…”

(Cumulative Environmental Effects, 10.3, pg. 19, Burns Bog)

Does he understand the meaning of the word ‘Viability’?

“Bogs are complex ecosystems requiring a particular set of biophysical conditions…Due to interactions between vegetation, peat accumulation, chemical conditions, and water movement and storage, impacts to one ecosystem component will affect others. (Main Binder, p. 350, Potential Impacts to Burns Bog)

“The route also passes through ecosystems that are directly part of the bog complex and previously identified as required for the Bog’s ecological integrity (Hebda et al, 2000).”

(Scientific Advisory Panel Opinions to Environment Canada Concerning Potential Environmental Impacts of the Proposed South Fraser Perimeter Road on Burns Bog, Pg. 5)

Impacts to one part of the Bog ecosystem will have an affect on the whole. We know from the preloading activities for Highway 91 and Tilbury Industrial that the effects are felt well into the protected lands. The periphery of the Bog plays an important role in the life of the Bog, and studies of the Bog have made recommendations to protect a greater amount than the 2042 ha partnership lands to a minimum total of 2450 ha. Of the remaining 408 ha that is required to preserve Burns Bog as a viable ecosystem, the SFPR would destroy almost 288,000 square meters and isolate a large portion of the balance from the protected lands. This includes land that Delta Municipality already owns that could easily be added to the protected areas. These lands were supposed to be added to the ‘Partnership Lands’ within two years of the deal being reached….

Why has Delta not contributed its portion of these lands to the protection of the Bog?

Was that not part of the agreement?

Was there not a by-law passed to recognize these lands as ecologically significant and to protect them?

By Gateway’s own admissions, the SFPR would destroy;

Ø 3,037 square meters of undisturbed sphagnum moss habitat.

Ø 4,780 square meters of red-listed plant communities.

Ø 61,958 square meters of red-coded Pacific Water Shrew Habitat

And the recent shift in the alignment by Sherwood Forest would also destroy roosting and foraging habitat for large numbers of threatened bird populations including Trumpeter Swans, Great Blue Herons, Bald eagles, Owls, and the Sandhill Crane.

And the MoT has stated in a Technical Memorandum to Environment Canada that;

In considering refinements to the alignment on the west side of Burns Bog, analysis undertaken by MoT indicates that a further shift (i.e., to the west side of Crescent Slough) would not eliminate impacts to areas of concern to EC, associated with the original alignment, while at the same time increasing impacts to other values as follows:

Q Increase the area and intensity of zone of influence effect on wildlife habitat (i.e., Sandhill Crane, Trumpeter Swan and water associated birds) provided by agricultural fields.

Q Potential increases in collision mortality to Barn owls associated bisecting remaining foraging habitat (to the east of Crescent Slough);

Q Impacts to fisheries values (where none currently exist) associated with two crossings of Crescent Slough; and

Q In order to minimize impacts to agricultural values the alignment will still be required cross, and impact, some ecological values associated with the Corporation of Delta lands north of the Nottingham property.

It is noted that the proposed relocation does have cost (est. $20 million) and other social, economic and community effects which are also a critical part of the Environmental Assessment review.

(Technical memorandum to Lisa Walls, A/Manager, Pollution Prevention and Assessment Section from Malcolm Smith, Environmental Manager, SFPR Project on September 21, 2007, regarding MoT Responses to Environment Canada Comments on South Fraser Perimeter Road, Page 8)

Let me give you the quote once again…

“the Province, Delta, and the GVRD shall not do anything, or allow anything to be done, that does or could reasonably be expected to destroy, impair, diminish, negatively affect, or alter the Bog…”

There is clearly enough evidence to invoke the protective covenant and stop the SFPR from being built near the Bog.

The only people saying that the SFPR wouldn’t impact the ‘Partnership lands’ are the Kevin Falcon, Geoff Freer and George Harvie!

Every Regional plan and OCP since the 1960s has emphasized the protection of our environment and our Green space.

The recent International symposium on Wetlands and Peatlands, (U.N. Peatlands Conference, Bali 2007), said that the importance of protecting our Bogs and wetlands cannot be overstated.

Peat Bogs sequester ten times more carbon than any other ecosystem of the same size, and “conservation and restoration of peatlands can be up to 100 times more cost effective as other carbon sequestration measures”

I would like to arrange a meeting with your Worship and any councilors that are willing stand up for the protection of Burns Bog to discus how we can move towards stopping the SFPR from impacting the bog and getting Burns Bog recognized as a Ramsar/UNESCO site to give it some real protection.

Looking forward to a speedy reply,

Most sincerely,

Don Hunt

Sunbury Neighbourhood Association

Written by Stephen Rees

October 17, 2008 at 6:22 am

Posted in Environment, Transportation

Tagged with ,