In this Jan. 18, 2014, file photo, endangered orcas swim in Puget Sound and in view of the Olympic Mountains just west of Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

Canadian Indigenous groups want sea health study, marine traffic halt

They say the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and a new shipping terminal near Vancouver would increase pressure on sea life

Indigenous groups in Canada and the United States are calling for a study of how human activity has degraded the waters off British Columbia’s coast before any new vessel traffic is allowed in the area, where port and pipeline activities are on the rise.

Members of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation in B.C. and the Tulalip Tribes and Lummi Nation in Washington state say they want a halt to any more marine traffic in the Salish Sea until the impact study is complete.

READ MORE: New Coast Guard radar boosts marine traffic monitoring off B.C. coast

“We’re Coast Salish nations that have come together from both sides of the border with the United States and Canada to address this urgent issue that’s happening to our Salish Sea,” Raynell Morris of the Lummi Nation said Wednesday.

They say the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and a new shipping terminal at Roberts Bank, 35 kilometres south of Vancouver, would increase pressure on sea life.

The Federal Court of Appeal quashed the Trans Mountain project’s approval in August in part due to the National Energy Board’s failure to consider marine shipping impacts.

Rueben George of the Tsleil-Waututh said the decline of salmon stocks and, in turn, the endangered southern resident killer whales should be a wake up call to politicians on both sides of the border.

“To me it’s like the canary in mines. The animals are going and it’s happening and it’s not going to be too long before it’s affecting all of us,” George said.

READ MORE: Study begins in the Salish Sea as time runs out for whales

The groups said fisheries, sacred sites and traditional economies are all threatened by new and expanding port facilities and they want the study to consider change over time, not just the impacts of a single project.

They suggest establishing a baseline for Salish Sea health at 1985, when harvest levels were still considered healthy. The Lummi Nation also wants to meet with federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna on the topic, Morris said.

The groups did not rule out demonstrations if U.S. and Canadian authorities refuse to conduct a study, with Morris saying they would protect the land and sea “by any means available and possible and necessary.”

Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Indigenous representatives spoke during a break at an information session held by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s review panel on the proposed Roberts Bank Terminal 2 project.

The project, proposed by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, would see the construction of a new three-berth marine container terminal in the waters off Delta.

Cliff Stewart, vice-president of infrastructure for the port authority, said demand has been increasing on Canada’s west coast for all types of shipping over the past couple of decades. The average growth in demand for container volume alone increases eight per cent each year, he said, which is why the port authority proposed building the new terminal.

Long term forecasting says growth will decline to four or five per cent over the next five to seven years, then down to about three per cent each year over the next several decades.

“But given the volume that now is coming in through the west coast, even a three per cent growth is a significant amount of containers each year,” he said.

Existing infrastructure can be expanded but even then it is projected to reach capacity by the mid-2020s.

Any new project that requires an environmental assessment by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has a consideration of cumulative effects built in, Stewart said.

“The way that environmental assessment methodology works is you look at the impact of a particular project and if there are residual impacts after mitigation, then you have to look at the cumulative effects of that particular effect,” Stewart said.

In the case of Roberts Bank Terminal 2, the only new projected impact after mitigation is an increase in underwater noise, which would have a negative effect on the southern resident killer whales, he said.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

B.C. BUDGET: Surplus $374 million after bailouts of BC Hydro, ICBC

Growth projected stronger in 2020, Finance Minister Carole James says

First residents move into Nuxalk Nation’s tiny homes

Four of the tiny homes are now complete and residents have moved in

Province announces $100-million grant funding for Northwest communities

The Northern Capital and Planning Grant will go to four regional districts and 22 municipalities

All Native Basketball Tournament Day 5: Recap

Highlights and results from day 5 at the All Native Tournament

Students give two thumbs up to no more B.C. student loan interest

Eliminating the loan interest charges could save the average graduate $2,300 over 10 years

Ontario man accused of killing 11-year-old daughter dies in hospital, police say

Roopesh Rajkumar had been hospitalized with what police described as a self-inflicted gunshot wound

Manitoba ‘pauses’ link with ex-B.C. premier Gordon Campbell after allegations

Campbell had been hired to review two major hydro projects

Heritage minute features Japanese-Canadian baseball team, internment

The Vancouver Asahi baseball team won various championships across the Pacific Northwest

UPDATE: Woman, off-duty cop in critical condition after stabbing outside B.C. elementary school

The officer was interceding in an alleged assault when he and the woman were stabbed

$10-a-day child care not in 2019 budget, but advocate not irked

Sharon Gregson with the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C. says NDP on track to deliver promise

B.C. Seniors Advocate questions labour shortage in care homes

Are there really no workers, or are care aide wages too low?

B.C. business groups worry about looming economic decline in wake of NDP budget

The party’s second government budget focused on plenty of spending, business advocates say

Man injured in police shooting near Nelson has died: B.C. police watchdog

The death follows an incident in Bonnington on Feb. 13

Most Read