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May takes port fight to Ottawa

Green leader submits 1,000-name petition

Opponents of port expansion at Roberts Bank are pleased the issue is getting some national play.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May tabled a petition in the House of Commons last week calling on Parliament to stop further port expansion in the Fraser River estuary in Delta.

She said the petition comes from more than 1,000 B.C. residents opposed to constructing a massive second container terminal at the mouth of the Fraser.

She also cited Against Port Expansion's concern that Terminal 2 will destroy key habitats and migration corridors for more than two billion juvenile salmon and several million birds of the Pacific Flyway. The Most Important Bird Area in Canada supports waterfowl and shorebird migration routes from 20 countries and three continents, she said.

May told the Optimist port expansion may be under the radar due to a plethora of other controversial issues, including oil pipelines, however, public awareness needs to be raised about T2.

"A container port expansion may have some potential benefit for Canada, but is this the right place for it?" asked May, the MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands. "It does have the potential to be very damaging."

Although the federal government has greatly watered down the environmental assessment process, May said, she's pleased T2 will go to a panel review and public input.

"Hopefully, it will be an opportunity for a proper job exploring whether this is in the public interest and what its impact will be on the environment. When I tabled the petition, I also called for as full a public process as possible."

Saying the port's failed container growth projections are just one of the many reasons T2 isn't justified, APE's Susan Jones is pleased the controversial expansion plan is getting attention.

Jones said the Department of Fisheries avoided a proper cumulative environmental effects assessment when Deltaport added a third berth, so she hopes, with growing public awareness, it won't happen again.

Jones also warned it's not inconceivable T2 could become an oil terminal if the container business continues to fall short of expectations.

"The infrastructure would already be built, the island and the rail would be there. That's not an unrealistic possibility," she said.

Cliff Caprani with Citizens Against Port Expansion is also pleased the T2 proposal is getting more public attention, saying it poses devastating impacts on local wildlife.

"It certainly works for us and if we can get some more play on this, that would be fantastic. We're planning to take more steps, seeing if we can leverage that into something more tangible in our own opposition, trying to get things happening," he said.

Caprani agreed that with many other controversial environmental issues played up in the media, there's a danger T2 might not get the attention it deserves.

"One of the challenges we're willing to take on in the next 12 months is raise the profile, so that it does become top of mind with people. We can't displace the other issues, which are very important, but for us it's a matter of trying to muscle our way on stage and be one of the three or four issues out there."

T2 is a proposed threeberth terminal adjacent to Deltaport to handle a projected increase in West Coast container traffic. An application is expected to be submitted later this year after an environmental impact statement is completed.